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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Ex-Scots Guards officer,"Troops are dying in Iraq for a 'doomed project" by Paul Bignell and Ian Griggs

A former captain in the Scots Guards who has served in Afghanistan and Iraq describes both operations as a political and military shambles in a book to be published next week.

Leo Docherty, 30, was formally reprimanded six months ago for breaking the Army's code of silence by criticising the top brass for a catalogue of failures in both countries. He left the Army disillusioned and under a cloud in September, but now risks further ire from his former masters by publishing an account of his time in Iraq and Afghanistan, called Desert of Death.

Mr Docherty, who speaks five languages, including Arabic and Pashto, became a captain in 2001 and was deployed to Basra in Iraq in November 2004. "None of us in the officers' mess believed in the weapons of mass destruction nonsense - we all saw that as a kind of pretext," he said.

But things started to go wrong quickly, and Mr Docherty began to feel that Operation Telic was causing as many problems for the population as it solved.

"There are nearly 10,000 British troops there just getting on with the job, taking terrible risks and dying for the sake of a doomed project, and yet they crack on like it's inevitable, reasonable and sensible to be there," he said. "A lot of what you're doing is often counterproductive, in the sense that it's damaging relations with local people."

After a six-month tour in the country and following his return to the UK, Mr Docherty took up a new role as aide-de-camp and interpreter for Colonel Charlie Knaggs, commander of the Helmand taskforce in Afghanistan.

Not long afterwards, he received orders to seize the town of Sangin. "Sangin was a sudden order, made on the back of a fag packet, that was in no way prepared for," he said. "I had barely two minutes to give orders to my team and show them how the mission was to pan out.

"As we approached the town, I was sitting on the bonnet of my Snatch vehicle when shots started to crackle to our left. I jammed my helmet on and made a crouched run to a ruined wall to our left to try to see who was shooting at us."

Sangin was taken, but during the battle an 11-year-old Afghan boy was shot dead, a poignant reminder of the dangers of waging war in a dense civilian area. "I think we've lost the sympathy of a generation of people," he said. "We're perceived as an invading army, and we're radicalising the population."

Mr Docherty resigned his commission last autumn, but not before attacking those who sent him to Iraq and Afghanistan in the press. His comments earned him a formal reprimand for speaking out without clearance from his superiors.

"I came out of the Army fucking angry - I felt I had a right to come out and say something," he said. "My friends had been killed, so I thought: 'I'm not going quietly.'"

From International Clearing House,Published in Independent 08 April 2007

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