As Blair attempts to justify the ruin of Iraq, alarm is caused by the publication of evidence from Afghans
An Intimate War, by Dr Mike Martin, offers a very different view of the story of the last thirty-four years of conflict in Helmand Province, Afghanistan – seen through the eyes of the Helmandis. It demonstrates how outsiders have most often misunderstood the ongoing struggle in Helmand and so exacerbated the conflict, perpetuated it and made it more violent.
To the local inhabitants the Helmand conflict is a perennial one, involving the same individuals, families and groups, and driven by the same arguments over land, water and power “water, land, blood feuds and fights over their grandfather’s inheritance”- a tribal civil war, rather than a fight against the Taliban.
It has been praised by senior military figures and MPs. Major General Andrew Kennett, who commanded Dr Martin’s unit, said: ‘I think he has done the Army a great service by writing this.’
Martin argues that Nato’s ISAF troops failed to understand they were getting and that the Taliban were not the ‘main drivers of violence’. Conflict was driven by Helmandi individuals, including local politicians and tribal chiefs, and their personal motivations. It was more of a civil war between clans than a clash between the ‘good’ government of Afghanistan and the ‘bad’ Taliban. He comments:
“But we were not set up to understand that. We were set up to fight an ideology and find weapons dumps. We were completely unequipped mentally and conceptually to understand the type of conflict that we were engaged in. It was a micro civil war, rather than an insurgency, and how you deal with that is completely different”.
In April, the TA captain, who was commissioned by the MoD to research the UK’s conflict in the province, said that the study had been freely available in King’s College library and he had informed MoD officials of his plans with proceeds of the publication going to charities Combat Stress and the Afghan Appeal Fund, sending it to various people in the Army and the MoD.
He heard nothing until February when the MoD said that he was banned from publishing the book as he was a serving officer. He then resigned his commission and planned to forge ahead with the book’s release.
Officials stepped in to block its publication, claiming it breached the Official Secrets Act because of the inclusion of Wikileaks material and “other classified material”.
Dr Martin from east London, said: “I do believe the Army needs to really look at how it does its business because there’s been such an intelligence failure in Afghanistan”.