This photo epitomizes the tragic wrongheadedness of our misadventure in Afghanistan. But the lesson, as ever, will not be learned.
“Pictured with the man who shot him dead moments later: RAF policeman grins alongside rogue Afghan policeman who opened fire on him and comrade,” by Anna Edwards for the Daily Mail, November 5 (thanks to James):
An unwitting British soldier who posed for a photograph with a rogue Afghan policeman was shot dead by him seconds later.
Corporal Brent McCarthy, 25, is pictured with a member of the Afghan Uniformed Police just moments before the shooting.
After the snap was taken the gunman and another accomplice turned their weapons on the RAF policeman.
His comrade Lance Corporal Lee Davies, 27, of the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, who can be seen sitting grinning in the background of the photo, was also shot dead.
The pair were unlawfully killed while on active service, a coroner has ruled.
A military inquest heard the pair both died of ‘unsurvivable injuries’ after being shot by close range gunshots.
Both soldiers were part of an eight-man team who had gone to the Afghan police base in the Lashkar Gah district of Helmand province on May 12.
The patrol had gone there so British officers could meet local police officials with RAF policeman Cpl McCarthy acting as a specialist adviser.
Oxfordshire Coroners Court was told the men had been engaging in ‘banter and general chit chat’ with what they thought were two Afghan Uniformed Police officers.
LCpl Davies, from Barry, South Wales, had remarked that the Afghan pictured had ‘wet himself’ and this may have been a sign as to what was about to happen, the inquest heard.
The Afghan national pictured was shot dead by a British guardsman as he tried to flee the scene.
Home Office pathologist Dr Russell Delaney said despite efforts to resuscitate the pair ‘there was nothing colleagues, combat medics or medical staff could have done.’
Benjamin Bardsley, the men”s commander at the time, told the inquest at Oxfordshire Coroners Court it was his belief the two Afghans, dressed in police uniforms, had staged an ‘opportunistic’ attack on his men.
He described both Cpl McCarthy, an RAF policeman, and L/Cpl Davies, of 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, as ‘phenomenal soldiers’ fully capable of doing the job.
‘I don”t know why they were attacked – it may have been the Afghans had been turned by the Taliban in the previous weeks,’ he added.
‘I am sure it was nothing the corporals did. I think it was just wrong time, wrong place with these two Afghans set on what they did.’
He added at the time, the risk in the Helmand theatre of an insider attack – known in the British Army as a green on blue incident, was ‘one out of ten’.
The Army unit was in the area acting as a police advisory team helping train the Afghan police, but had specifically visited the base that day to ask the local commander about a tip-off that one of his colleagues was working with the Taliban.
Mr Bardsley said there had been confusion on the day, as his patrol arrived in the police compound, as to which of his men was acting as the guardian angel, where one soldier remains armed and wearing full battledress and helmet keeping a watchful eye on the Afghans.
Yesterday, the inquest heard from the soldiers” comrades Guardsman Joshua Foley, of 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, and Cpl Jo Price who had believed the duty was done on a simple rotation system, with Guardsman Foley stating at one point he had been acting in the role.
But their sergeant, Robert Heath told the Oxfordshire coroner Darren Salter he had specifically tasked L/Cpl Davies with the job.
Mr Bardsley had previously said in a written statement to Army investigators he thought Cpl McCarthy was acting guardian, however when asked about the discrepancy with Sgt Heath”s account he replied: ‘I”ve got it wrong, clearly.’
He added the role was never one he would have allocated to any soldier lower than lance corporal rank.
Later, asked by Robert Gregory, counsel for the Davies family, about whether L/Cpl Davies or Cpl McCarthy had been acting in the guardian role on that day Mr Bardsley said he would have expected one or the other to have been armed, and wearing their helmet.
Yesterday, Guardsman Foley said he recalled when he left L/Cpl Davies and Cpl McCarthy to take up position in the guard tower their weapons were lying ‘on the concrete slab next to them’ but within arm”s reach.
The inquest was also shown photographs taken on Cpl McCarthy”s camera of the two suspected Afghan killers posing for pictures with the troops – which showed both the soldiers had got their helmets off.
In another image Cpl McCarthy was pictured side by side with one of the Afghans, each holding the other”s weapons.
Guardsman Foley recounted how the British had tried to strike up ‘banter’ with the pair although they did not seem to understand what the troops were saying.
Later L/Cpl Davies had pointed out one of the two Afghans had ‘a wet patch’ between his legs, said the guardsman.
‘He (L/Cpl Davies) said “look, he”s p***** himself, he”s scared of you”,’ added Guardsman Foley….