Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

If a Soldier Shoots His Comrade, He's Nearly Always under Too Much Pressure; COMMENTARY

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

If a Soldier Shoots His Comrade, He's Nearly Always under Too Much Pressure; COMMENTARY

Article excerpt

Byline: Patrick Hennessey

BLUE 25 is an unremarkable police checkpoint in central Helmand. On patrol last week with soldiers from 1 Scots Battlegroup and the Afghan National Army, I wouldn't have noticed it if the patrol commander hadn't pointed it out as the site of the shooting last November of five soldiers from the Grenadier Guards by one of the policemen they were training.

In the aftermath, so me questioned the strategy of working alongside the Afghan national security forces. Those of us with experience of operating with the Afghans replied that such incidents were extremely rare and that the vast majority were brave and determined.

The miserably similar killing of three men of 1 Royal Gurkha Rifles this week by an Afghan soldier will not only come as a cruel blow but will also reignite the debate about the strategy of "partnering" and the capability of the Afghan national forces to take over the responsibility for security when the International Security Assistance Force begin to withdraw. A manhunt is under way for the guilty soldier. The insurgents have, inevitably, claimed him as one of their own but the revelation that he is a Hazara -- an ethnic group persecuted by the Taliban and who have made generally more reliable soldiers and policemen than the more ambiguously aligned Pashtuns --suggests that this was the act of a broken individual.

In a way, the motivation is irrelevant. The trust built up between partners has been violated and we are already being told this illustrates the lack of preparedness of the Afghan forces and a major setback. While I would concur with the former, it does not have to be the latter. Soldiers turning their weapons on their comrades has a regrettable pedigree.

From the shooting of the commanding officer by a man he had ordered flogged as far back as 1815 during the Battle of Quatre Bras to Americans "fragging" officers during the Vietnam war, such incidents invariably indicate are men under tremendous pressure. …

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