The article about the SAS in Afghanistan in today’s Sunday Times is the latest attack on Britain’s special forces by those who do not know the full story. Yes, there are always grey areas on operations. For example, the ICRC informed me in 2001 that SF soldiers in Afghanistan were pretending to be civilian charity workers as they travelled around the countryside and this was compromising their own humanitarian efforts.
However, facing an enemy that one day is tending the fields and the next is planting an improvised explosive device that will not differentiate between civilians and soldiers is like entering a boxing ring blindfolded with one arm tied behind your back. Of course, there will be times when the intelligence is not as good as it needs to be, resulting in tragic consequences, but there is a planning process whereby these operations are checked by competent people before they are authorised.
Strangely, my regiment was training police and patrolling in Helmand Province in 2012 and mentoring the Afghan Army on Operation Herrick 17, around the times of the alleged SAS killings. I visited them in Lashkar Gah in December 2012, when they were doing a fantastic job helping the local communities to resist the brutal fanatics who subjected them to terrifying treatment.
It is quite right that the Chief of the Defence Staff has said that he will not re-open the two investigations because we are yet to see any new evidence from either the BBC, or The Sunday Times.