YESTERDAY'S ENEMY (FREEDOM FIGHTERS OR
By Rupert Chetwynd.
Published by Impala (International Media Publication and Literary Associates) Limited in April 2005.
ISBN 0 9549943 1 0 Hardback.
A glowing introduction by Sandy Gall sets the scene for this intriguing (if expensive) book on a subject that many of us in Special Forces have deep feelings about. A good number of our readers will know Rupert Chetwynd from his days in 21 SAS Regiment (and other places) and will already be aware of his astute mind, political acumen and often biting sense of humour. In 1983, Afghanistan, which had been invaded by the USSR, was perhaps not the most attractive country with which to become involved. Nonetheless, Chetwynd, responding to a crie de coeur from a medical mission based in Guildford, took on the daunting task of becoming their advisor and facilitator cum trouble shooter as they sought to establish in-country British supported medical facilities to assist the thousands of war injured personnel in that beleaguered arena of war. It was the beginning of an involvement with Afghanistan that would keep the author occupied for the best part of two decades. The affiliation was to extend into areas far beyond the charter of the author's initial task.
Chetwynd's story in "Yesterday's Enemy" charts his progress through the lethargic and often indifferent channels of diplomacy and on into the daunting mountains of the Hindu Kush. There is a lightness in the telling of the tale that surely belies much of the hardship and danger encountered. Descriptions of the barriers raised by 'officialdom', both in the UK and Pakistan, are candidly but amusingly related and Special Forces readers may well encounter a couple of military dignitaries with whom they will be already familiar. Once inside Afghanistan, the pictures painted of the terrain and the inhabitants are graphic and intriguing. The scenes portrayed of injuries and sufferings are touching and the activities of the medical teams verge on the heroic when one indulges in a little 'reading between the lines'. Encountering setback after setback the author becomes alert to the fact that not all the difficulties are the result of the military situation in Afghanistan. Is there a 'ghost force' at work?
The third part of the book, "The Conspiracy of Silence' seeks to answer that question as Chetwynd takes his readers deeper into the political arena and exposes corruption on a high scale. He cites apparently positive evidence of drug-dealers and gun-runners co¬operating with a fund-raising charity to defraud the German public, the EEC and the US State Department. Huge amounts of money, contributed by the well-meaning men in the street in the expectation that the gifts will fund medical facilities, do not take that charitable route. There is evidence to suggest that the cash is siphoned off for sinister reasons. The story of Chetwynd's self-funded, painstaking and terrier-like research into this aspect of his book is most impressive and the reader almost becomes a part of the jigsaw solving process.
This is an extremely interesting 465 page book and probably a very brave book given some of the later statements made in an outspoken and clearly accusative manner. Chetwynd's analyses of political and military situations are crisp and stimulating and he shrugs off his own considerable contributions in a charming self-effacing manner.
Yes, the book is expensive and for £45.00 one could expect to view more and better produced photographs, but, the story is undeniably worth reading.
The Journal of Special Air Service
Volume 11, No. 1