[...] Sangin will hardly go down in the annals of this campaign as a stunning success. The woefully under-resourced British contingent was never able to achieve its original objective of dominating the area surrounding this strategically important town. But through their heroic efforts, British troops did manage to defeat repeated Taliban attempts to retake the town, killing hundreds of insurgents and denying the enemy control of a vital supply route.
So why is it that all people want to discuss is our losses in Sangin, rather than our successes? Part of the answer lies in the strange reluctance of senior British officers to provide details of the scale of the carnage that is daily being inflicted on the Taliban. Normally, governments are only too eager to proclaim the military's successes in times of war, not least because of their propaganda value. Churchill sustained morale during the darkest hours of the Second World War with constant updates on enemy losses, while Thatcher was unequivocal in her praise of British victories in the Falklands.
Those responsible for prosecuting the war in Afghanistan, by contrast, fall silent when asked to provide details of enemy losses. The explanation, or so I was told by one Cabinet minister, is a concern that publishing details of Taliban deaths would play into the hands of anti-war campaigners, who would exploit the information for their own propaganda purposes. Politicians are also mindful of the impact the true level of Taliban casualties might have on British Muslims. There are already significant numbers who actively support the Taliban and its allies, and ministers have convinced themselves that the total would only grow if the movement's true plight were more widely known.
This policy of restraint, however, is self-defeating, because public support is crucial to the ultimate success of any military campaign. British backing for the effort in Afghanistan will continue to wane until we focus on our successes, rather than obsess about our failures. Read more