The latest secret US diplomatic cables to be released by the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks have revealed harsh criticism of the British forces in Afghanistan.
The Afghanistan President reportedly said British troops made the Helmand province less safe, the local governor pleaded for US troops, while one high-ranking American military figure said Britain was “not up” to the job.
The documents report conversations in which the Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Britain was “not up to the task” of securing the southern province of Helmand.
According to the cables, President Karzai told US officials he was puzzled why security in Helmand had deteriorated after the arrival of British troops.
At a meeting with Senator John McCain in December 2008, he said he was relieved that US marines were being sent in to reinforce British troops and “related an anecdote in which a woman from Helmand asked him to ‘take the British away and give us back the Americans’.”
Another cable sent by the embassy that year said that without US support, “we and Karzai agree the British are not up to the task of securing Helmand” ahead of the next year’s presidential elections.
US General Dan McNeill, who led Nato forces in Afghanistan in 2007/08, was said to be “particularly dismayed by the British effort”. He is reported to have said that “they had made a mess of things in Helmand, their tactics were wrong”.
The Helmand governor Gulab Mangal is said to have criticised British troops for failing to get out of their bases and engage with local people. In January 2009 he said American forces were needed as British security in Sangin was inadequate. British troops “must leave their bases and engage with the people”, he is reported to have said.
The Governor was reported in another cable around the same time to have told British officials: “Stop calling it the Sangin district and start calling it the Sangin base – all you have done here is built a military camp next to the city.”
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “UK forces did an excellent job in Sangin, an area which has always been and continues to be uniquely challenging, delivering progress by increasing security and taking the fight to the insurgency. That work is now being continued by the US Marines as part of a hugely increased Isaf presence across the whole of Helmand Province.”
The cables are the latest from a cache of 250,000 secret documents obtained by WikiLeaks.
Its founder Julian Assange is reportedly in England, as the latest revelations reported in the Guardian newspaper sparked global anger.
The website has been forced to change its web address after the company providing its domain name cut off service. EveryDNS.net said it had terminated services because WikiLeaks.org had come under massive cyber attacks. But WikiLeaks has already reappeared using a Swiss web address.