The view from a British soldier in Afghanistan
As I’ve discussed previously finding a British military blogger updating from Afghanistan or Iraq is a difficult task.
This is about the best I can find at the moment. Lachlan MacNeil is section commander of Section 1, 2 Platoon, A Company, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. He’s currently in Helmand province in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban.
MacNeil has just written a piece for The Guardian about his platoon’s role in some fighting near the town of Garmsir conducted with the US Marines.
MacNeil’s diary doesn’t provide the richness offered by servicemen and women blogging in the US Armed Forces. For starters, MacNeil is writing more of a diary, or column than a blog. There are no links, no spaces to comment, and this is the first thing he’s written in two months.
Second, like all military bloggers, there are certain things MacNeil won’t write about, or will not be allowed to write, for reasons of operational security (and the sake of his job, no doubt). For example, at one stage in his article MacNeil
talks about a Javelin missile locking onto another source describes how he thought a Javelin missile had locked onto another source:
“This seriously pissed us all off as there were a lot of coalition helicopters in the area and we didn’t want the missile engaging one of ours.”
It would be interesting to know whether the MoD would have allowed him to publish those details had the missile taken down a helicopter and not hit the intended target, as was the case.
And finally, MacNeil’s writing is still mediated through the editorial filter of The Guardian.
But MacNeil’s diary does still offer us a different point of view. After being withdrawn from frontline action, MacNeil read a piece (ironically) in The Guardian about how British troops were losing in Afghanistan – a conclusion he is keen to contest.
“What does annoy us is being misquoted and giving the British public the perception we’re losing. If you want the truth, I’m writing it for you now. The British army is doing an outstanding job out here in very difficult circumstances.”
Though a long way from the unmediated democratised blogging ideal, we could do worse than have a few more soldiers like MacNeil occasionally being allowed to tell us what life on the frontline is like in Helmand.
After all, the story of Afghanistan is an important – one which has already cost the lives of a hundred of MacNeil’s colleagues.