A former British commander has condemned WikiLeaks for revealing US cables containing concerns about British forces not being “up to the task” in Helmand province in Afghanistan.
Colonel Stuart Tootal, who commanded the 3rd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment in Helmand, told BBC Breakfast: “The people who leak this stuff, they’re not helping anyone.
“They are certainly not helping the poor British or American infantrymen and they are certainly not helping Afghan people. I don’t think any of this is in the public interest.”
He said the US held British forces “in the highest regard” and said the army had ensured “strong security” in Afghanistan for US troops. But Col Tootal admitted the UK had suffered from a lack of resources in Afghanistan.
Referring to comments in the cables claiming the UK had “made a mess of things” in Helmand, he said: “These are the views of some individuals and they are some time ago.
“They refer to a period of time when there were not the right resources. Some of the individual criticisms I think are very unfair. We have now got the resources in place.
“I don’t think (the army) made a mess of things but we got some of our approach wrong in not having enough resources. A lot of this comment is historic and some of it is unfair.”
Britain’s military operations in Afghanistan were criticised by the country’s president Hamid Karzai, local officials and the American commander of Nato troops, according to the leaked diplomatic papers.
The secret US embassy cables report conversations in which Mr Karzai said that Britain was “not up to the task” of securing the southern province of Helmand and suggested the job would be better given to the US.
US general Dan McNeill, who led Nato forces in Afghanistan in 2007/08, is said to have been “dismayed” by a British effort which “made a mess of things” in Helmand and Helmand governor Gulab Mangal is said to have criticised British troops for failing to get out of their bases and engage with local people.