Friday, 22 October 2010

Punching above their weight

A former British special forces soldier speaks out on some of the kit being used in the Afghan war. For a change, he's quite impressed:

“I’d say the appeal is pretty simple,” he says. “You can’t underestimate the value of having a vehicle that is fast, will never break down, and is strong enough to mount a heavy weapon in the back.”

Oh, wait a minute - he's talking about the enemy's kit. Namely, a Toyota Hi Lux with a big gun on the back. To use a tired expression, somebody's 'punching above their weight' - but it's not the Brits.

We probably wouldn't want British squaddies riding around in those things - at least, not until Top Gear demonstrates that they're also roadside bomb proof (Jeremy Clarkson + Improvised Explosive Device = pure television gold), but it's still a graphic illustration of how much defence spending is wasted on kit that's not that much better than something you could buy cheaply off the shelf (after all, as numerous grieving relatives have found out in tragic circumstances, a lot of expensive military-spec vehicles used by our armed forces haven't been IED-proof either).

Plentiful, good enough, and here right now might serve our forces better than perfect, scarce and probably ready some time this decade.

Although, if the exit strategy from Afghanistan involves bringing the bad guys back into government, maybe we could save even more money by just bringing everyone back home from Afghanistan right now. Human rights in Afghanistan have been abysmal, and elections are better than warlords and crazed fundamentalists, but when I read things like this, I wonder how long any changes for the better will last:
The new negotiations involve agreements to allow Taliban leaders positions in the Afghan government and the withdrawal of US and NATO forces according to an agreed timetable, the newspaper said.
The White House on Wednesday backed the idea of Afghan government reconciliation talks with the Taliban...
(AFP)  Maybe, when NATO has packed up and gone home, the Taliban ministers will play nicely and not get up to any naughty human rights abuses or seizing power, but I wouldn't bet the house on it.