Professor Anthony King in Helmand Province

Exeter academic comments on Sangin handover

Professor Anthony King from the University of Exeter will be giving the 2010 Chatham House Defence Lecture, entitled ‘Military Command in the Next Decade’ on Thursday 23 September.

His research suggests that the operations in Afghanistan and Iraq have exerted extreme pressure on the defence establishment and exposed various points of weakness. He will discuss the quality of British military command, especially at the strategic and operational levels.

This is timely given that the British forces in Afghanistan have handed over responsibility for security of the Sangin district of Helmand to US forces, marking the end of their four-year mission in the area. The expertise of Professor King whose research focuses on the critical sociology of British operations in Helmand and historical analysis of the cohesion in the armed forces was called on to appear on BBC Newsnight with SAS Commander Richard Williams to discuss the handover.

An examination of the events leading up to the handover are complicated, according to Professor King who said, ‘Potentially problematic forms of command might best be understood as a manifestation of ingrained institutional culture, rather than the personal failings of individual commanders. By identifying the underlying basis of command difficulties, my research suggests that the British armed forces may be better placed to cope with the undoubtedly difficult challenges of the next decade.’

Date: 14 September 2010

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