What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Coalition MEDEVAC

At Kings of War I've earlier referred to a post in which professor Theo Farrell noted how important it is to gather all the facts from all possible sources when assessing the tricky question of how much a given coalition member's contribution is actually worth in the case of any coalition operation. Through a later update to that post even my musings have become a hypertextual presence there. And some very interesting comments followed, too.
The comments came mostly concerning what happened in Musa Qala when the Brits and the Danes were defending the town back in the summer of 2006 (a town that was left behind in October, subsequently fell to the Taliban in February, 2007, and was taken back from insurgents this month), as well as about the Danish military's readiness for a mission like the one in Helmand.
Mention has been made of an incident when a Danish soldier was wounded, and in the London Times' words:

" Next morning the Danes were amazed to see a British Army air corps Lynx helicopter, which suddenly appeared from nowhere shortly after dawn and nosedived before pulling sharply out of the dive to land perfectly.

“I will never forget that small helicopter suddenly dropping so fast out of the sky,” said a Dane. “Several of us thought for a second that he was going to pile in. He was a very good pilot and very brave. I salute him.”
The nosedive was vital to ensure that the Taliban didn’t have the time to attack the helicopter. The wounded Mathiesen was placed on board and taken back to the main British base at Camp Bastion where he made a good recovery. "

But well, was it a British helicopter indeed?
A commenter, "Malcontent," responded (excerpted):
" Bullsh!t a US blackhawk was dropping jaws that morning, the british couldn’t be bothered less about a headshoted allied under their command. "
So then came the currently last comment in the row by a certain Lars Hansen. That's as balanced as it can get, one feels.
(excerpted) " The Journal of Operations from the unit in question (1. Lette Opklaringseskadron - 1st Light Reconnaissance Squadron) and periode of interest confirms that American helicopters evacuated Danish wounded from Musa Qala on July 25 and, more relevant to the matter at hand, on August 02.
(...)
The UK Joint Helicopter Force (Afghanistan) policies in regard to MEDEVAC in general I’m not particularly familiar with, but in the periode between mid-2006 to early 2007 it’s my impression that UK air assets were somewhat reluctant to extract casualties form unsecured LZ’s, perhaps reflecting just how scarce air resources was in that periode, more so than anything else. It’s not my impression that the UK JHF(A) was discriminating between British and non-British casualties as implied in the malcontent comment. "
Of course I can only say that Lars Hansen's comment seems to me to be balanced and correct, as I myself haven't read the Danish military source he's referring to above. It just seems to me to be much more of a realistic explanation, the one suggested in his last paragraph, that European soldiers don't actually wish to have each other die of wounds if there is a way to do something about that. And the UK is indeed facing a shortage of helicopters in Helmand, so that is a constraining factor that has the potential of becoming a concern in the case of unsecured LZs (Landing Zones), just as L.H. said.
The smartest (i.e. safest) conclusion I can draw here is again that one therefore has to be very cautious in accepting any conclusion regarding coalition quarrels (just as with the diplomatic back-patting going on at other times).

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