Thursday, 30 July 2009


Not truly a Eureka moment as I am not in the bath like old Archy was. Eureka as in the meaning of a sudden enlightenment.
I have been reading some accounts of the Communist campaign in Malaya during the early '50s. When I got out there, it was almost over but many of the restrictions were still in force or recent enough so that a newcomer could see what had been done to defeat Chin Peng's forces. My readings revived these memories and I went on to compare Afghanistan of today with those days and situations.
We had trained and supplied what became the CT force much as we had the mujahadeen. Our Force 136 fought the Japanese and the muja. the Russians. Both were successful campaigns but went on to become fresh fields of battle. Our enemy operated in areas where they had many advantages over us - the jungle and the wide open deserts and widespread communities. They were quite pitiless in punishing anyone whom they deemed had collaborated with us; these punishments were terror instruments in themselves. Children slaughtered in front of parents who were spared as living testimonies of helping the authorities. CT's needs were simple and they were quite capable of living off the country - simply taking what was needed from the non-involved peasants.
Tactically, they were devious and used quite simple plans of attack. Well sited ambushes. Booby traps. Explosives. Attack resources to draw our forces into areas where almost everything was in their favour. We had ample assets in terms of air power and artillery but were given little opportunity to deploy them. Our enemy was unconcerned at inflicting collateral damage but were well aware of our need to retain hearts and minds. We spent vast sums in direct operational costs - £1 million for every terrorist killed. We expended much money in local reconstruction which the enemy promptly destroyed at little or no cost to themselves.
Back then, Whitehall showed little involvement. The local European community of tin miners and rubber planters were very vocal and fiercely contemptuous of know nothing and care even less functionaries in England. The major US and UK companies involved in tin-tapping decided what was best for themselves and went about maintaining that situation. Even to the extent of supplying their estate managers with arms, ammunition and funny-money as required.
One of the most radical measures was the relocation of villages. These originally were scattered widely and provided life blood for the CT. Guarding the dispersed communities was almost impossible. Solution was to transfer inhabitants to purpose built villages built with an eye to their protection. Resistance to the moves was initially high but this was overcome but granting title to land in and around the village. This had a tremendous psychological effect. Transferees were given materials to build their own accommodation and transport to the new opportunity was freely provided. This initiative was branded by CT propagandists as a renewal of the Boer War concentration camps but the enthusiasm of the new villagers did not sustain this view.
So - where does this meld with our problem in Afghanistan?
Were we to repeat the relocation, we would have many advantages. The new compounds would be designed to afford public health and hygiene standards to raise the expectations of life for babies, children and adults. Pure water. Regular sanitation. Our reconstruction monies would go directly to the individual compounds to benefit the Afghans there. Not as some sort of Social Security handout to people squatting on their heels but to set up village industry and self-sufficiency. We would not transfer the poppy farming. Resistance to this should be overcome when alternative channels of income were identified, set up and supported. The design of the new would incorporate bases for ANA and ANP garrisons designed and fitted out to maximise their capability. Watch towers, fortifications, strong communications. Suitable trained (and indoctrinated) Afghans to form local councils in conjunction with the traditional grey-beards.
This will take time. And money. We are currently looking at involvement in the current mess for many years and the corruption takes a lot of the money. Devolving our attentions over the villages would reduce the opportunity for skimming central fundings. It would also need commitment. One thing America does well is handling large projects. Our own forces are renowned for small scale engineering. We surely Can Do - all it needs is will power.