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Wellington Society:
Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith on Afghanistan

Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith is a renowned military commander who has been in the SAS and recently been the head of British Forces in Afghanistan until late 2008. The Brigadier’s talk, entitled ‘Campaigning in Afghanistan’, was a truly memorable and hard-hitting one. He spoke with great passion and knowledge, in an engaging and powerful tone. He began by providing a detailed historical and geographical backdrop, and encouraged his audience to consider the complex political nature of the situation in contrast to the portrayal of the war as a predominantly military conflict in the media, thereby underlining the need to seek political resolution over quick military victory.

He continued with his experiences of being a commander in Afghanistan. Giving personal accounts of why the situation had deteriorated recently and why the Army must maintain a presence there, while Al-Qaeda has moved into neighbouring Pakistan. He then remarked on the opium trade in Afghanistan and, while some of Helmand province’s finest poppies were passed round the audience, he commented on the way it in which the trade affected the reality on the ground as well as the implications and complications it raised for any form of effective resolution to the conflict.

Questions at the end raised issues concerning the recent corruption in the general election, the delicate political reality and the nature of the military operations in Helmand. The Brigadier finished off by stating that the main objective now had to be to stabilise the situation, train the Afghan army and facilitate the political process in search of a peaceful and positive outcome for the people of Afghanistan.


Anjana Silva (RJM)

DATE POSTED: 20 October 2009

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