Eight criminal charges against the most senior British military command responsible for operations in Helmand, Afghanistan 

Thursday 28th December 2017
by Anthony C Heaford
(c.1500 words - 15-minutes reading)

The following are criminal allegations I have made against the most senior British military command in Afghanistan and that were first published by the House of Lords in February 2017 as part of their wider inquiry into the Conduct of the Baron of Herstmonceux. The Baron of Herstmonceux was the Chief of the Defence Staff from 2010-13 - the head of all British armed forces when he was known as the maverick General David Richards.

General Richards

Today Richards is a Lord in that same House and describes himself as the Lord General Sir David Richards, although I think he is actually only a Baron. He is also a very well remunerated consultant to both the king and government of Bahrain, amongst his numerous other business interests and allegiances.

Whilst those named in my testimony here range from an army Captain to a Lieutenant General, I still consider these to be the ‘low hanging fruit’ with regards to where the ultimate culpability lies. But the men I have named here are the men I know to have committed crimes that resulted in the abject failure of our mission in Helmand in the summer of 2012 and the deaths of at least two men, or that they are complicit in the subsequent cover-up. The summer of 2012 was the six-months that I was in Helmand, serving as part of that mission and this is my testimony against ex-General David Richards’ command.

Jurisdiction and evidence
These allegations have been under consideration by the British royal military police (RMP) since November 2016, thirteen months as of Christmas 2017. As well as submitted evidence I have asked the RMP to accept the reports published on thequietmancunian.com website as formal evidence submissions connected to their current investigation of these matters.

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Charge 1

That Group Captain Jeff Portlock, Commanding Officer of Camp Bastion was concerned in the production and trafficking of a class A drug - an offence under British law carrying a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, a fine or both.   

British forces secured & irrigated barren Afghan government land besides Camp Bastion airfield in Washir District, Helmand Province in 2006. We then allowed it to become populated and used for the production of a class A drug. We also provided active protection for the illegal production, processing, and transit of said drug.

The British command knowingly passed control of this land to the Noorzai tribe who were already implicated in drug trafficking at the highest levels. The notoriety of the Noorzai’s involvement in drug trafficking was significant enough to be noted in the ‘Herrick 16: Operational Guide’, produced by the Ministry of Defence and issued to all British service personnel deploying to Afghanistan that summer.

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Charge 2

That Brigadier Doug Chalmers, Commanding Officer 12 Armoured Brigade performed a duty negligently - an offence under military law carrying a two-year sentence.

Operation Shafuq, 18th - 23rd of April 2012: one-hundred and seventy British soldiers were sent to walk through minefields in the most dangerous district of Helmand on a mission that had failed 24-hours before it began. The primary element of the operation was surprise. That was lost after some Afghan soldiers deployed alone 24-hours early, pre-warning the Taliban of our mission and allowing them to hide their weapons and escape unchallenged. The secondary goal of the operation was poppy eradication – but as detailed in charge 1, the British army was protecting opium harvesting besides camp Bastion on exactly the same days. This fact exposes the entire charade of Operation Shafuq.

I believe the commanding officer to be guilty of performing his duty negligently by allowing operation Shafuq to proceed as planned under these circumstances.    

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Charge 3

That a Major, the Battalion’s second-in-command, acted with misconduct on operations when in the vicinity of the enemy, failing to use utmost exertions to carry out lawful orders - an offence under military law carrying a full life sentence.

On the morning of 22nd April 2012 the battalion second-in-command visited the airfield guard tower tango-one-one accompanied by a Captain. I was on guard during their visit so I repeated our duty orders before pointing to the two hectare poppy field (equal in size to about five football pitches) besides the fence and the five men harvesting opium there.

The two officers began to laugh and claimed, “We can’t see anything” before immediately exiting the guard tower and ending their visit.  I was trying to point out a significant security threat (which both the US & British inquiries have since validated) and these commissioned officers ignored me. Five months later the Taliban walked in to camp Bastion after breaching the perimeter fence just a few hundred metres from the poppy field and my guard tower. They destroyed $400-million of equipment and killed two US Marines.

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Charge 4

That Squadron Leader James Stewart, Commanding Officer of the Force Protection Wing contravened a standing order he should be aware of - an offence under military law carrying a two-year sentence

During the weekly camp security meeting of Friday 20th April 2012 the longstanding problem of camp guards sleeping or otherwise neglecting their duties was raised – a most serious military offence in an operational setting carrying a maximum life sentence. It was requested that culprits should be returned to Britain to be formally charged to set an example and maintain the airfield’s security.

The request was rejected and the senior command decided that junior officers should instead just have a ‘quiet but informal word’ with any culprits. This was due to a higher command directive that such incidents and crimes were not to be formally recorded or punished for fear of damaging either reputation or morale.

This deception and denial of a well-known problem was maintained after the airfield raid of the 14th September and passed off as fact by senior British military officers to both the US & British inquiries into the airfield raid.   

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Charge 5

That Squadron Leader James Stewart, Commanding Officer of the Force Protection Wing performed a duty negligently, an offence under military law carrying a two-year prison sentence.

On 14th September 2012, the night of the Taliban’s devastating raid on camp Bastion airfield, the soldiers in the guard towers closest to the airfield defences breach point were not issued night vision equipment. This was common knowledge inside camp Bastion the following morning and had already been determined to be the most significant contributory factor to the success of the airfield perimeter breach.

I charge that the decision not to provide every manned guard tower with night vision equipment, and the failure to adequately monitor other surveillance systems protecting the mission critical airfield was criminally negligent.

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Charge 6

That Lieutenant General Capewell, Chief of Joint Operations failed to make an official record he has a duty to make, with intent to deceive a parliamentary inquiry - an offence under military law carrying a two-year prison sentence.

On the 17th December 2013 whilst giving evidence to the UK Defence Select Committee’s inquiry in to the attack on camp Bastion the Lieutenant General lied, stating that British forces had merely “tolerated” production & processing of a class A drug on Afghan government land besides camp Bastion.

The truth is we irrigated the poppies and provided active protection to the opium harvesting and processing. We were protecting illegal drug production from the very same Afghan security forces we were training to eradicate poppies.

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Charge 7

That Brigadier Fitzgerald, commanding officer of 42 Brigade performed a duty negligently - an offence under military law carrying a two-year prison sentence.

In November 2013 I met with the Brigadier and submitted formal statements of these and other allegation I have made. This was not a formal complaint, but I entrusted the Brigadier to act upon my grave concerns and he gave me his assurance this would be done.

I now know that the Brigadier took no further action to investigate or act upon my allegations despite his assurances to the contrary, and when he had a professional duty to do so.

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Charge 8

That Lieutenant Colonel Neil Thorpe, Commanding Officer, Theatre Equipment Support Battalion failed to make an official record he had a duty to make, with intent to deceive the Secretary of State for Defence - an offence under military law carrying a two-year prison sentence.

On 11th September 2012 members of the light vehicle Platoon (including myself) were ordered to lie to the Secretary of State for Defence (Philip Hammond MP) regarding the condition of equipment, namely the new foxhound vehicle.

We were ordered to tell him that there were no problems with a vehicle that had failed its hot climate trials in May 2012. The government minister was further deceived in this matter by the use of the vehicles in a staged patrol of non-operational vehicles in the vicinity of Camp Bastion.

© Anthony C Heaford 2016