I'm ashamed of the British military's mistakes in Afghanistan: Poster boy for Ministry of Defence lifts lid on campaign saying training and equipment simply 'wasn't good enough'
Daily Mail, UK
15 March 2014
The poster boy for the Ministry of Defence has lifted the lid on the 'poor training and equipment' that soldiers were given during combat in Afghanistan, stating that it simply 'wasn't good enough'.
Major Richard Streatfeild, 40,described how he felt ashamed at how defended kit and training he knew to be inadequate on reports on the war for the BBC, sticking to lines given by the MOD.
The former army commander was a senior officer in the Sangin insurgent stronghold, who commanded A Company, 4 Battalion, The Rifles, during a seven-month tour, which saw some of the fiercest fighting in the war.
According to the Major Streatfeild, the problems with equipment and training was a major factor in the death of Lance Corporal Michael Pritchard in the winter of 2009 - 2010 in Sangin, where he was killed when a British sniper mistook him for a Taliban fighter.
Streatfeild said 22-year-old's 'blue on blue' death was indicative of the of the problems the British army faced in in fighting the Taliban, and he called on the MoD to give Pritchard's family an apology.
'In an interview with the Guardian, Streafeild said: 'It's true to say we were the best trained we'd ever been, and we did have the best equipment we'd ever had.
'But it is also true to say it wasn't good enough in relation to the operation we were going on and the tasks we were being asked to do.
'Undoubtedly the core equipment has been found to be inadequate. Before I went out there I felt ready. Hindsight suggests we were far from being the finished article.'
Streatfeild criticised the way the MoD decided to buy their kit at short notice because they did not have it ready when they began conflict in Afghanistan.
Following his command in Afghanistan, Streatfeild took a position in Whitehall as an MoD procurement officer, where he noticed defence budget cuts add to the army's existing problems.
He said he was frustrated by the cuts, and that they procured the minimum level every time, but could not say anything externally because he was still in the army.
When he brought it up internally, he was largely ignored, and instead would have to publicly defend the kit provided during training and on operations commanding British troops in the Helmand Province.
During his time as a commander in the British army, he lost five men in the tour of the Helmand Province, and blamed, in part, poor communication due to a lack of radios.
According to Streatfeild, the army gave misleading evidence in an inquest into the death of Pritchard, by saying that they were going to buy battlefield beacons, which would have saved his live.
Streatfeild said that it was important to recognise that while the army might have intended to buy the battlefield beacons, the money was simply not there to buy it.
In reference to Pritchard's family, and in particular his mother, Streatfeild said that she could get a formal apology from the MoD, calling on them to take responsibility for the mistake.
Prtichard's mother, Helen Perry, told the Guardian that the revelations by Streatfeild into army equipment and training confirmed the worst fears she had about her son's death. Among Streatfeild's revelations into the problems facing the army was that they lacked proper equipment for the field of battle, a claim that the MoD rejects.
She believes that her son's death was not only completely preventable, it was caused through complete incompetence, in both leadership and equipment.
The MoD responded to the circumstances that led to Pritchard's death, saying they were constantly reviewing equipment requirements, and since 2003 the Urgent Operational Requirements process, which buys emergency new equipment for the army, has delivered more than £5.8 billion worth of equipment to the front line, which has saved countless lives.
They also claimed that no soldier is sent to the theatre of war without necessary training.
STREATFEILD'S CRITICISM OF MOD PRACTICES IN AFGHANISTAN
* MoD didn't to upgrade essential parts of the army's core kit despite pledging billions of pounds to pay for the Royal Navy's two new aircraft carriers and Typhoon jets for the Royal Air Force.
* The MoD took too much time deliberating about spending money on beacons that allow commanders to identify their own troops on the battlefield, tech that could have prevented Pritchard's 'blue on blue' death.
* Streatfeild identified the way the MoD bought their equipment at short notice was a morally dubious way to equip the army.
* The MoD lacked basic equipment during training, including, but not limited to, metal detectors for hunting IEDs