Sunday, February 25, 2007
Those sending British troops to Afghanistan should learn the lessons of the Battle of Maiwand
By Robert Fisk
"O ut of the frying pan, into the historical fire. If only our leaders read history. In 1915, the British swept up from Basra, believing that the Iraqis would reward them with flowers and love, only to find themselves surrounded at Kut al-Amara, cut down by Turkish shellfire and cholera. Now we are reinforcing Nato in that tomb of the British Army, Afghanistan.
Hands up any soldiers who know that another of Britain's great military defeats took place in the very sands in which your colleagues are now fighting the Taliban. Yes, the Battle of Maiwand - on 27 July, 1880 - destroyed an entire British brigade, overrun by thousands of armed Afghan tribesmen, some of whom the official enquiry into the disaster would later describe as "Talibs". The Brits had been trying to secure Helmand province. Sound familiar?.......
History, it seems, haunts all our adventures in the Middle East. Who would have believed that after the British reached Baghdad in a 1917 invasion, they would face an insurgency which, in speed and ruthlessness, was an almost exact predecessor to the rebellion which the British and Americans would confront from 2003? Lloyd George, then Prime Minister, stood up in the House of Commons to insist that the British occupation force had to stay in Iraq. Otherwise, he warned, the country would be plunged into civil war. Sound familiar?.......
So now the British are to reinforce Afghanistan yet again. Flying by Chinook to Kandahar will not take as long as General Roberts's 20 days. British soldiers are unlikely even to enter Kandahar's central square. But if they do, they might care to look at the few ancient cannon on the main roundabout: all that is left of General Roberts's artillery."