US to supersede British national command chain
In a development that will see shudders go down the spine of those who believe national integrity greater than transnational cooperation, British troops in Afghanistan will now come under direct US command. The complicated NATO multinational chain of command and the often conflicting ‘national caveats’ of the various country forces has been a headache as we have reported before, “NATO risk in Afghanistan”. It has caused friction between various commanders and inhibited efficiency of performance.
However, while a pursuit of operational simplicity is admirable, this development sits uncomfortably with some. One could well imagine the screams of outrage if the shoe was on the other foot and American troops at military risk were placed under British officers. One could almost imagine the Founding Fathers turning in their grave and the hounds of the right wing populist commentators inciting Americans to the street in protest. So far, criticism in the US is mooted though there are some muffled mutterings of complaint. A monopoly on the chain of command changes the game from a multinational allied coalition to a US led transnational military action in Afghanistan. It is not yet one multinational army bending to the will of US control, but there will those who see it this way. While the move is being downplayed, it is one to monitor. It will be interesting to watch whether this move toward a potential transnational military force garners any mainstream analysis.
About 8,000 British troops based in Helmand province in Afghanistan are to come under the operational command of the US, the Ministry of Defence says.
The move is part of a restructuring of Nato forces, with command and control in southern Afghanistan split into two.
UK forces currently take orders from Maj Gen Nick Carter, in charge of operations in the south.
Maj Gen Carter will now oversee Kandahar, while Maj Gen Richard Mills from the US will take on Helmand.
British and American troops have been working together in many theatres over many decades and don’t have a problem working together
The command of the 1,100-strong British battle group based in Sangin – an area which has seen a number of UK deaths recently – and in Kajaki will also come under US-led force from 1 June.
Asked about the changes at a news conference in Berlin, Prime Minister David Cameron said the move “does make good sense in terms of maximising the impact of what both we and the Americans are doing in the southern part of the country, which is absolutely vital”.
“British and American troops have been working together in many theatres over many decades and don't have a problem working together,” he said.