Czech army special units set for shake-up following Afghan investigation


A Czech Ministry of Defence investigation into a special unit serving in Afghanistan has revealed startling rifts within it and over its role. The findings have come out along with a newspaper report that the unit refused to fight in the field. The official investigation has led to calls for an across the board shake up of how such special units are organised.

The ministry investigation focused on a special operations unit of the military police which has been serving in Afghanistan since 2006, initially in the conflict ridden south of the country around Helmand and more recently in the east around Logar.

The Czech newspaper Mladá Fronta Dnes reported on Wednesday that members of the unit were far from living up to its motto – fortune favours the brave. It said that they refused to go into battle when told to by British commanders in charge, saying that the task was too dangerous. On another occasion officers told the British not to count on the unit because some of the men were taking a holiday.

Ministry of Defence spokesman Andrej Čírtek says that there are conflicting versions about such incidents from members of the unit. That means they cannot be confirmed or denied.

However, it is clear that there were deep seated problems with the up to 100-strong force. “There was an investigation of the operations of this unit in Afghanistan. Thanks to this investigation we know that interpersonal relations in this unit are very bad and during the deployment of this unit in Afghanistan there were conflicts about the mission of this unit and the tasks it should fulfil,” he said.

As well as recommendations about future training, the investigation has paved the way for calls for a sweeping overhaul of the way these, often elite units, are organised within the army structure. “There should be also some new concept about how to organise special forces within the armed forces of the Czech Republic as such. So this concept should include not just this unit under the military police but the whole structure of special forces of the army of the Czech Republic,” Čírtek added.

Unit members have been trained to protect VIPs in conflict hot spots, guard key installations and rescue hostages. Mr Čírtek says the unit has now returned from its clearly blighted Afghan mission. But its record out there has certainly left it a hostage to sweeping military changes.