Ministry of Defence Blocked Warning that Britain Faces Afghan Defeat Times-online THE Ministry of Defence has suppressed a report which warned that British troops are facing strategic defeat in Afghanistan. The decision to block publication of the critical academic paper in the armys in-house journal coincides with a scathing attack by a senior US military officer on the arrogance of UK tactics in Iraq. Colonel Peter Mansoor, who worked closely with General David Petraeus, the top US commander in Iraq until a year ago, said Britains political and military leaders had abdicated responsibility in Basra by failing to protect local people. Mansoors comments are made in the latest edition of the British Army Review which demands the brutal truth about the UKs shortcomings in guerrilla warfare. Sir David Richards, the new head of the army, favours a public debate so that lessons can be learnt from previous military mistakes. However, critics believe that mandarins at the MoD have deliberately been less open to spare the blushes of politicians. Last Friday Gordon Brown, insisted that Britains aims in Afghanistan were realistic and achievable, contrary to the warnings of Eric Joyce, who resigned as ministerial aide to Bob Ainsworth, the defence secretary. The line from Whitehall is that its okay to talk about mistakes in Iraq but not helpful to reveal errors in Afghanistan, said a senior army officer. Attempts to censor debate to limit short-term embarrassment for ministers . . . loses wars and gets soldiers killed. Although they allowed Mansoors article to be used by the British Army Review, defence officials vetted the publication line by line, watered down the editorial and banned three other pieces. One of these was a paper written by David Betz and Anthony Cormack, two academics at the department of war studies at Kings College London, who had extensive access to the military. In their paper, which had already appeared in an American journal, they predicted Britain would pull out in failure from Basra earlier this year and faced looming defeat in Helmand, Afghanistan. They wrote: The plain fact of the matter is that, at the time of writing, it seems entirely possible that Britain will suffer what amounts to a strategic defeat in both its ongoing counter-insurgency campaigns. The academics argued that the army has been undermined in Afghanistan because defence reforms have geared it up to take part in large-scale battles rather than guerrilla warfare. Ultimately, they blamed failures to date on the governments lukewarm commitment and unwillingness to provide sufficient resources. Betz said he was disappointed by the articles exclusion. Its important to learn lessons from Iraq but even more important to learn lessons from whats happening in Afghanistan and apply them fast while there is still an opportunity of changing things, he said. Such views are shared by Richards, who took over leadership of the British Army at the end of August. General Stanley McChrystal, the American commander in overall charge of allied troops in Afghanistan, has indicated that the military strategy needs to be overhauled. He believes that greater emphasis should be placed on protecting the population and winning hearts and minds rather than killing Taliban insurgents. It is precisely these tactics that the British Army failed to heed in southern Iraq, according to Mansoor, a retired former chief-of-staff to Petraeus. American forces, by contrast, were able to adapt their strategy, building on their experience on fighting insurgents in Vietnam. At the end of 2007, British troops completely pulled out of Basra city and tried to cut ill-conceived deals with Shiite leaders to maintain the peace. Mansoor writes: Rather than protecting the Iraqi people in Basra and thereby insulating them from militia violence and intimidation, British political and military leaders had abdicated responsibility for their security the exact opposite of what was happening in Baghdad and elsewhere, as US forces were moving off their large forward operating bases to position themselves among the Iraqi people where they lived. Failure in Basra was not due to the conduct of British troops, which was exemplary, says Mansoor, but rather to a failure by senior British civilian and military leaders to understand the political dynamics at play in Iraq, compounded by arrogance that led to an unwillingness to learn and adapt. New elite force for Helmand BRITISH military commanders are to be given the use of 900 extra special forces troops as part of a rethink of tactics in Afghanistan, writes Michael Smith. A new company of 150 elite soldiers will be attached to each of the armys six frontline manoeuvre brigades. However, the special forces units are likely to be drawn from the brigades existing ranks, meaning there will be no increase in the number of British troops in Afghanistan. The role of the new special forces will be to probe into Taliban-held territory to gain information and provoke responses ahead of operations. Until now British commanders have had to create ad hoc formations that are disbanded once the brigade returns to its base in the UK or Germany. The new special forces will be additional to the SAS, Special Boat Service and Special Forces Support Group, who will continue to work with the Americans. Each unit will be known as a Brigade Reconnaissance Force, after a similar but smaller unit already in place with the Royal Marines 3 Commando Brigade. They will include specialist forward air controllers to call in airstrikes, artillery and mortar fire controllers, snipers and explosives experts. Major Gordon Clifford, who will lead the unit for 11 Light Brigade, which will deploy to Helmand next month, said his men will have to operate for long periods in small groups in remote areas. We will be expected to be the brigade commanders eyes and ears, he said. Copyright 2009 Times Newspapers Ltd.