Catriona Laing

Catriona Laing

British Ambassador to Zimbabwe

Part of UK in Afghanistan

23rd May 2012 Harare, Zimbabwe

"Green on blue" in Helmand – what the international media don’t tell you

So Chicago has come and gone and the outcome has ensured the international community’s commitment post 2014. The funding pledges for Afghan security forces have been made; the international community has signalled it is with Afghanistan for the long-term but reminded their public of why we are here; “ to stop it becoming a haven for terrorist training” as David Cameron said. President Karzai is working to ensure “that Afghanistan is no longer a burden on the shoulder of our friends in the international community”.  So a compact is emerging and everyone seems to have come away content.

These high level discussions can feel rather distant in Helmand Province. The local media here has covered Chicago but this has been squeezed alongside coverage of day to day items of poetry festivals, canal clearing projects, local political scandals and sadly the latest deaths from the conflict.

The recent incidents of “green on blue”, where rogue Afghan security forces turn their guns on ISAF military, has been a theme in the run up to Chicago both here and in capitals.  But these incidents are reported very differently in the international media from the local media.

On 12 May there was a green on blue incident in Lashkar Gah District. Lance Corporal Lee Davies  from the 1st tBatalion Welsh Guards and Corporal Brent McCarthy from the RAF Police were shot and killed by two rogue Afghan policemen.  Investigations are still underway as to what triggered the incident.  For the international media this was a hook to draw conclusions around erosion of trust between British soldiers and the Afghans they are training.  Local journalists reported on how swiftly and professionally other Afghan police from the same police unit reacted to the incident, including shooting one of the rogue policemen and embarking on aggressive patrolling of the area in an attempt to locate the second.

The following day British conducted a joint security meeting with the same Afghan police company, with local nationals in the area, to show that the relationship was not broken. And as an example of solidarity, one of the most senior policeman in the Province, Col Ismail, attended the vigil held here at the base.  The result and shared shock of this tragic incident has only served to strengthen the relationship between the British military and the Afghans they are training.  This is an important piece of ground truth which the international media should be willing to report.

3 comments on “"Green on blue" in Helmand – what the international media don’t tell you

  1. Very good observation. It suggests growing pride and faith in the Afghan security forces where it really counts… In Afghanistan. Much of the external commentary and reporting on Afghanistan ignores or belittles the commitment and skill of the Afghan security forces – with a borderline racist assumption that they are bound to be incompetent, corrupt or treacherous. Rogues soldiers and ‘friendly fire’ incidents are hardly confined to Afghanistan’s military or police, and infiltration is just another tactic of warfare, which should be expected not taken as a sign of failure or weakness. I believe that the Afghan security forces will be proud and effective defenders of Afghanistan’s hard won freedoms and emerging democracy. Why wouldn’t they be? It’s their country, they are tough and disciplined, and they command growing popular support.

    For the West, it must retain a long term supportive commitment to those forces beyond 2014 – with money, training, and technical support on logistics etc. It’s hard to tell whether enough post-2014 commitment was made in Chicago, but I hope it was… We need to leave the Afghans with a sustainable security apparatus sufficient to defend and build on the progress made since the darkest days of Taliban rule. But we also owe it to those ‘blue’ service personnel from Britain, the US and elsewhere who have paid a terrible price for these ambitions.

    1. Thanks for this comment which is spot on. The feeling here is the Chicago deal on funding and long-term support was a good one. ANSF forces are demonstrating their capability in leading operations. There are of course still many challenges including enablers. But we have 2.5 years to work on this. Catriona

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About Catriona Laing

I was born in Cardiff but brought up in South London. I studied economics and joined the civil service through the Government Economic Service after 2.5 years working for the…

I was born in Cardiff but brought up in South London. I studied
economics and joined the civil service through the Government Economic
Service after 2.5 years working for the Government of Botswana as an
infrastructure economist.
I was posted to Kenya to advise on the government’s development
programmes in East Africa, and then seconded to the United Nations
Mission in Somalia heading the UN Development Office.
I spent five years working for Prime Minister Tony Blair in his
strategy unit, and was later posted to head the DFID office in Sudan
running a £116 million programme and addressing the drivers of conflict.
Most recently I have been working for the Ministry of Justice to
establish the new international function with responsibility for
European and international justice.
I live with my partner – Clive Bates and our Sudanese dog – in
Balham. My hobbies are yoga, dog and mountain walking and cooking.