If you’ve heard the name, Linda Norgrove, this week you’ll be one of few in America that has. The US media, usually so quick to report its military’s successes, hasn’t rushed to bring us this particular headline. Those that did labeled it as a US troop operation to rescue a British female aid worker kidnapped by the Taliban in Afghanistan. The woman was, unfortunately, killed by her captors during the ensuing firefight.
At least, that was the official version.
Linda was a British girl who lived on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland. She was kidnapped in Kunar province, along with some Afghan workers, on September 26th. The Afghans were later released, but her captors held onto Linda.
According to a Guardian report, a group of Afghan tribal elders were in place near the hut where Linda was being held, ready to negotiate her release, when the US military opened fire on the compound. One of the elders told the Guardian “there had been a complete lack of cooperation” between the Afghan group’s efforts and those of Nato, prior to the rescue attempt.
When all opposition was quelled and the troops found the girl, she was lying on the floor of the hut badly injured. She died a short while later.
“Killed by her kidnappers,” was how it was announced to the world.
The truth appears to be somewhat different.
Senior US and UK politicians were quick to pass any blame for Linda’s death onto the Taliban who kidnapped her, but the fact is, they didn’t kill her. The rescue attempt was bungled because a US soldier threw a grenade into the room where Linda was lying. It killed her.
US forces are known for their “gung-ho” attitude towards such missions. “Never mind who gets killed so long as it’s not me or my buddies,” is very much the attitude of mind prevalent among the US military.
As one British Foreign Office official remarked while questioning the use of US troops to rescue a British national:
“There is a gung-ho attitude in certain parts of Nato special forces elements which does not apply to the UK elements.”
When asked why British special forces were not deployed to lead the rescue, British prime minister David Cameron said “it would not have been right to have insisted that British forces lead the rescue bid.”
It would have been quite unorthodox to overrule and insist on a particular set of forces to carry out an operation against the advice of extremely talented and professional commanders on the ground,” he added.
Unfortunately, Mister Cameron, those ‘extremely talented and professional commanders on the ground’ got it wrong.
This story may not have hit the headlines in the United States, but it sure has made it to the top of the UK’s list.
 “‘We were ready to negotiate for Linda Norgrove when rescue bid began’ claim” Guardian, October 12th 2010
 “Linda Norgrove: how the rescue operation was bungled” Telegraph, October 17th 2010
 “Whitewash fear for Afghanistan kidnap inquiry as MPs express concern about chief investigator” Daily Mail, October 13th 2010
Filed under: War games