Afghanistan’s Taliban surge: Ex-Colonel says army chiefs must shoulder blame for ‘unmitigated disasters’

A former army intelligence officer from Co Tyrone has said that the military interventions by the west into Afghanistan - and Iraq - can only be described as “unmitigated disasters”.

Thursday, 5th August 2021, 6:30 am
Updated Thursday, 5th August 2021, 4:26 pm

Former Intelligence Colonel Philip Ingram MBE, who attended the Royal School Dungannon and now lives in England, was speaking to the News Letter after UUP leader and former Royal Irish Captain Doug Beattie expressed deep concern about a resurgent Taliban taking control of major parts of Afghanistan, as the US proceeds to withdraw all forces.

Mr Beattie said that unless the west bolsters the Afghan army and secures a political deal between warring factions before withdrawal, there is a real possibility of the country once more becoming a base for international islamist terrorism which threatens the globe.

Mr Ingram agreed about the global threat - but did not think there was any viable solution.

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Former Army Colonel Philip Ingram MBE says military leaders should have told politicians that their goals in Afghanistan and Iraq were, in his view, not viable.

He was a military planner and intelligence officer that helped bring peace to modern Bosnia and Kosovo. He also served in Germany during the Cold War, Northern Ireland, Cyprus, Northern Macedonia, Croatia and Iraq.

“Afghanistan (and Iraq) can only be described as unmitigated disasters,” he told the News Letter.

“An initial clear mission in Afghanistan, to remove Al Qaeda, expanded without a clear plan. It is easy to blame political leaders but it is the military leaders at the interface between military operations and political decision making that have failed.”

He believes the brunt of the blame lies with senior military officers who allowed their political leaders to believe that their political goals for the two countries were viable.

Philip Ingram served all over the world, including Iraq, Bosnia and Kosovo.

  “All have been ‘yes’ men and none have had the moral courage to call out an impossible task for what it is. The result of that lack of moral fibre was the needless deaths and injury of countless British and allied service personnel, who at the tactical level on the ground were doing an outstanding job, whilst their leaders failed them.”

However, whilst the military have suffered, he says this will be nothing compared to how the civilian population will suffer in future - as the Taliban and possibly Al Qaeda will probably take control. This would result in “total mission failure” with an “unmeasurable” cost in deaths, injuries, torture and hardship.

He added: “They will impose very strict Sharia law and the country will likely plunge back into the dark ages. Once again, Afghanistan could easily become a breeding ground for international terror.”

Initially, he said, the fault was with George W Bush and Tony Blair, whom he said “failed to consolidate” their ousting of the Taliban in Afghanistan but instead went on to invade Iraq and topple Saddam Hussein.

“The failures from then have been down to the military commanders who could have been honest and resigned - sending political shockwaves - they didn’t and politicians will have believed their military commanders could achieve a lasting peace.

“Many of those British commanders are contentedly retired with large pensions, medals and even Peerages, but the failure is their fault; peacetime commanders, unable to be honest with the realities on the ground and continuously believing their self misinforming groupthink that they were achieving something.

“At this point there is virtually nothing that can be done to save the poor people of Afghanistan, and any Afghans who worked with the allied militaries will, with their families, likely be tortured and murdered.

He added: “When it comes to the lasting legacy left by senior military commanders, we should hang out heads in shame; yet sadly no one will be held to account.”

The only possible hope for Afghanistan, he says, is if something “drastic” happens like China - which borders on the country - “moves in to fill the vacuum”.

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