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Investment in Blood

Investment in Blood: The True Cost of Britain's Afghan War

Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Investment in Blood
    Book Description:

    In this follow-up to his much-praised bookLosing Small Wars: British Military Failure in Iraq and Afghanistan, Frank Ledwidge argues that Britain has paid a heavy cost - both financially and in human terms - for its involvement in the Afghanistan war. Ledwidge calculates the high price paid by British soldiers and their families, taxpayers in the United Kingdom, and, most importantly, Afghan citizens, highlighting the thousands of deaths and injuries, the enormous amount of money spent bolstering a corrupt Afghan government, and the long-term damage done to the British military's international reputation.

    In this hard-hitting exposé, based on interviews, rigorous on-the-ground research, and official information obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, Ledwidge demonstrates the folly of Britain's extended participation in an unwinnable war. Arguing that the only true beneficiaries of the conflict are development consultants, international arms dealers, and Afghan drug kingpins, he provides a powerful, eye-opening, and often heartbreaking account of military adventurism gone horribly wrong.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-19488-3
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    One summer’s day in 2010, I was walking down a staircase in the London Underground; next to me was a young baby being lifted in her pram down the steps by her parents. I don’t know what it was about this particular child, but as I glanced into the pram I had a flashback to Helmand, where I had served as a civilian advisor in 2007.

    In late October of that year I was walking from my rather pleasant, air-conditioned office in the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital, down to the security gate. The PRT...

  5. Part I: The Human Cost

    • CHAPTER 1 Helmand and the ‘Angrez’
      (pp. 13-44)

      In the 1960s and early 1970s, Afghanistan was a well-loved stopover on the hippie trail. And Helmand – for those who ventured to such a backwater – was a very pleasant, quiet spot that had a potential for real growth and wealth, thanks to the huge American investment that had been ploughed into the province.

      On my own first trip to Kabul in 2007, the woman sitting next to me on the plane had been on that trail. Still wearing a floaty 1970s dress, she told me how relaxing and pleasant the whole experience had been; how Chicken Street had...

    • CHAPTER 2 Military Suffering
      (pp. 45-64)

      It’s all forgotten now, isn’t it – the war in Iraq? To all intents and purposes, the British ended their involvement in 2009, dropping the problem of Basra into the lap of the Americans. How long ago it all seems – those daily reports of British soldiers, their lack of helicopters, the horrendous attacks involving sinister new ‘improvised explosive devices’ …

      Occasionally there will be a reminder of that ill-starred war: Tony Blair might pop up somewhere in the UK, where a protestor will loudly denounce him as a war criminal; new allegations might emerge of the abuse of detainees...

    • CHAPTER 3 Killing the Wrong People
      (pp. 65-98)

      The British armed forces are a seriously formidable fighting organization. For 50 years, the services have been entirely professional – and it shows. In terms of sheer fighting skill, the British people can be sure that they will be very well defended indeed, should they ever be attacked by an enemy army. Certainly the Taliban, despite their own formidable tactics and fighting skills, have found that, in every engagement fought on roughly equal numerical terms, they have come off significantly worse than the highly tuned soldiers of the British armed forces, with their access to extensive air cover and artillery...

  6. Part II: The Financial Cost

    • CHAPTER 4 Military Costs
      (pp. 101-126)

      Sixty years ago, President Dwight Eisenhower made the unequivocal point that the money for military operations did not grow on trees:

      Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities....

    • CHAPTER 5 Financial Element of Death and Injury
      (pp. 127-142)

      The costs to the nation of all those dead and injured soldiers extend beyond the pain, suffering and worry of bereavement. There is a financial element to death and disability, too. This needs to be paid by the state in one form or another, and must be taken into account.

      It is said that a cynic knows the price of everything but the value of nothing. But statisticians know both. When a person is killed, the loss is not only to the family, friends and immediate community: there is also a loss to society at large. The person will no...

    • CHAPTER 6 Developing Afghanistan
      (pp. 143-164)

      In the early nineteenth century, one of the British Empire’s impressive political agents (essentially administrators) operating in what is now the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan said this:

      There is nothing more to be dreaded or guarded against, I think, in our endeavour … than the overweening confidence with which Europeans are too often accustomed to regard the excellence of their own institutions and the anxiety that they display to introduce them in new and untried soils … The people of these countries are far from ripe for the introduction of our highly refined system of government or of...

  7. Part III: And For What?

    • CHAPTER 7 And For What? – Afghanistan
      (pp. 167-192)

      Professor Paul Collier of Oxford University, author ofThe Bottom Billion, is arguably the world’s leading expert on development economics. He has summed up what he sees as the West’s quixotic approach to Afghanistan as a whole thus:

      The fantasy that we have been pursuing as an international donor community is that what these countries need is an election … and that we can then rapidly let go … [In Afghanistan] we massively overloaded the agenda. What was going to happen in post-conflict Afghanistan? It was going to fix our drugs problem, for a start, and it was going to...

    • CHAPTER 8 And For What? – Security
      (pp. 193-216)

      So much for what we have done for Afghanistan. What, though, have we achieved for ourselves? Sometime in the summer of 2011, I had dinner with a friend of mine who is now a reasonably senior army officer. He, like many of his peers, had served with some distinction in Helmand, commanding a reconnaissance unit in the campaign. Over dinner, he was relating the story of one particular patrol that had got involved in a battle when he stopped, took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes: ‘When I got home I sat down and said to myself “What the...

  8. Conclusion
    (pp. 217-228)

    Britain’s efforts have resulted in the ‘stabilization’ (i.e. the temporary pacification) of 3 of the 14 districts that make up the province of Helmand – just one of 34 provinces in a country with a population that is half that of the UK. In terms of overall political significance, this might be the equivalent of three large market towns in rural Lincolnshire.

    Before the British burst onto the scene, Helmand was ‘stable’, in the sense that there was almost no Taliban presence and little prospect of any. After three years of British presence, the province was the most savage combat...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 229-248)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 249-254)
  11. Index
    (pp. 255-270)