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Understanding the Helmand campaign: British military operations in Afghanistan

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British forces are now engaged in a major operation in southern Afghanistan, the outcome of which is likely to be strategically decisive—especially for the configuration and status of Britain's land forces. Although progress seems to have been made, there has been much criticism of the campaign. Through an analysis of the three-year Helmand mission (Operation Herrick), this article explores whether, for all the improvements in the campaign in terms of resources and numbers of troops, the basic structure of the campaign established in 2006 has endured. Instead of focusing on an ‘ink-spot’ from which to expand, British forces have tended to operate from dispersed forward operating bases from which they have insufficient combat power to dominate terrain and secure the population. They are consequently engaged in a seemingly endless round of high-intensity tactical battles which are normally successful in themselves but do not contribute to the overarching security of the province. The analysis explores the way in which this distinctive campaign lay-down—the preference for dispersal and high-intensity fighting—may be a reflection of British military culture and its military doctrine. By highlighting potential unacknowledged aspects of the British military profession, the article aims to contribute to debates about the development of the armed forces.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2010

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