A single bullet from a sniper's rifle, but don't be so sure the six men it killed were 'Taliban'

What is apparent to me as a veteran, but has remained largely taboo in the media at home, is that we have not been fighting a fixed and easily identifiable group

Share

One shot. Six kills. On a superficial level the killing of a group of “Taliban” with one shot at considerable range is an impressive feat of arms. Among the soldiers involved there would have been much back-slapping, I guarantee. Perhaps the Sun newspaper's grotesque “Millies” military awards will give the lad who pulled the trigger a prize for his marksmanship much as they did to another sniper last year. On reflection, however, such an event is little more than an example of the mad luck which governs war. But this case also raises an important question - the great unmentionable if you will: The issue of who, exactly, we are fighting.

Given that the Taliban don't carry ID cards, and that my former employers at the MoD lie and deceive the public as a matter of course, I am not inclined to simply trust their word that everybody or even a majority of the people we have been killing (and who have been killing us) can easily be lumped under the neat heading “Taliban.” Combatants, certainly, but not ideological Islamists in the sense that we have been encouraged to believe.

An obvious recent example of this is the case of Marine A. The Afghan killed appears to have been called “Taliban” by the press as either a matter of reflex or, or likely, because so much of what is reported today about the military is cherry picked directly from MoD press releases. He may well have been a hard-core Talib, but little evidence has merged to support that assumption. I don’t doubt he was shooting at occupying troops but such behaviour is hardly the sole preserve of Taliban.

I’ll give you another example, this time borrowed from a former Australian army colonel turned military thinker and darling of neo-con hawks named David Kilcullen. Not your classic woolly lefty by any means. The second chapter of his excellent book The Accidental Guerrilla opens with a telling anecdote. A group of “Taliban” ambush a US Special Forces patrol in 2006, killing and wounding a number of them pinning them down for many hours.

Now this initial group may have been bona-fide, card carrying members of some hypothetical Taliban trades union but what is far more interesting is that during the firefight, for miles in all directions, locals who were otherwise unconnected with the Taliban downed tools, fetched their personal weapons from their homes and scattered caches and quite independently trudged along to take a few pot-shots at the foreign soldiers. After the fight they simply melted back into the Afghan wilderness. They were not coerced by the dastardly insurgents and they were not themselves radicals or even foreign fighters. They were military age Afghan men for whom a foreign, occupying presence was intolerable.

What is apparent to me as a veteran, but has remained largely taboo in the media at home, is that we have not been fighting a fixed and easily identifiable group known as the Taliban but rather the irate population of Afghanistan. Rather than simply accepting what we are told, this year of all years, with the WW1 centenary and some degree of Afghan withdrawal upon us, is it worth taking stock.

 

When I was in southern Afghanistan it quickly became clear that terms like insurgent, Taliban, anti-coalition militia were virtually meaningless as the local population began to violently reject our presence in what Kilcullen himself terms an “antibody” response to the unwanted foreign presence. That is, of course, if you accept that those terms had any real meaning in the first place. Moreover, my enduring impression was that they were used virtually interchangeably anyway and mainly to make us all feel better about ourselves as the military operation slid beyond our control.

These labels and more besides have long since become part of the white noise of post 9/11 propaganda. Though this reality is not yet fully apparent at home, history will attest to it. Personally, I have known for some time that there is far more to Britain's violent occupation of Afghanistan than a simple case of “Our Brave Boys” against “Terry Taliban.”

It reminds me of an anecdote from the late Tony Benn. As a young lad during WWII, he had been summoned to the Home Guard to learn how to be an insurgent. The nucleus of an underground resistance was being built pre-emptively in case the German’s invaded mainland Britain. A campaign of shootings and bombings would have been launched against occupying troops as they patrolled, performed sentry duties or relaxed off-duty. In other words, a popular insurgency against a foreign military occupation.

That invasion never happened. But had it come to pass we can rest assured that even the most adamant and bloodthirsty supporters of the Afghanistan or Iraq occupations would stop short of write off or lump together plucky British insurgents as extremists, despite the obvious parallels.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Energy Markets Analyst

£400000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Energy Markets An...

Junior Web Analyst – West Sussex – Up to £35k DOE

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

Nursery Manager

£22000 - £23000 per annum: Randstad Education Bristol: We are currently recrui...

Web Analyst – Permanent – Up to £40k - London

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Personal Finance Editor: Cutting out the middle man could spell disaster for employees and consumers alike

Simon Read
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch  

Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes tell you what to think. Don't let them

Memphis Barker
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week