Another bloody mess. Frank Kitson’s contribution to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Posted By: September 05, 2021

300,000 have died in Afghanistan since 1979.

David Burke.Village Magazine. Dublin. Saturday, August 21, 2021


  1. The counter-insurgency gurus.


During the period 1970-72 Brigadier (later General Sir) Frank Kitson served as Brigadier of 39 Brigade in Belfast. It is arguable that he caused more damage to relations between the British government and the Nationalist community than any other individual in the British Army. There are many stories about Kitson on this website, and readers are invited to visit them. Despite the hornets’ nest, he kicked over in Ireland, Kitson rose up the ranks of the British Army and was hailed as a counterinsurgency expert around the globe. He even served as Queen Elizabeth’s aide de camp.


Unfortunately, Kitson did not learn much from his mistakes in Ireland. Nor did the American counterinsurgency specialist, General David Petraeus. The latter served as commander of the United States Central Command and Coalition Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Petraeus viewed Kitson as some sort of guru.


In 2006 when Petraeus was planning the so-called military  ‘surge’ in Iraq, he visited Kitson for guidance and advice. Kitson was in retirement at the time but was happy to share his views with the Americans. The ‘surge’ involved an increase in the number of American troops to provide security to Baghdad and Al Anbar Governorate. It served as the template for the 2009 ‘surge’ of 30,000 troops in Afghanistan which was meant to stabilize the country and defeat the Taliban.



  1. Petraeus supports Kitson in his defense of Mary Heenan’s action against him.


On 27 April 2015, Kitson was cited as a co-defendant along with the British Ministry of Defense in an action taken by Mary Heenan, the widow of Eugene ‘Paddy’ Heenan. Her husband was murdered by Albert ‘Ginger’ Baker’s UDA gang. Baker was commanded by Tommy Herron who oversaw UDA assassination teams in the early 1970s. Herron and Baker were allies of British military intelligence. Herron entered into his alliance with British army counter-insurgents during Kitson’s tour of duty in Belfast. It is to be hoped that more details will emerge during the forthcoming trial.


Baker did not join the UDA until sometime in the second half of 1972, by which time Kitson had left Northern Ireland. What is crucial, however, is that Baker was put in contact with British military intelligence by Herron. Baker is still alive. Although Baker has said little in recent decades, back in the 1980s he spoke at length about his connections to British military intelligence and explained how the UDA conducted operations with guns supplied by the RUC.

Petraeus undoubtedly kept in contact with his hero during the rest of his military career. He was appointed as Director of the CIA by President Barack Obama and served in that role between 2011 and 2012.


At the very least, Petraeus monitored how his British hero was faring. In November 2019, he came out in defense of Kitson by attacking the type of legal action Heenan had initiated. Petraeus did so in the forward to a paper he wrote, ‘Lawfare – the Judicialization of War’. He argued that this development was “as much of a threat to Britain’s fighting capacity as would be a failure to meet NATO budgetary targets, and it risks putting the special relationship under increasing strain … The extent to which those who served decades ago in Northern Ireland, including the highly distinguished soldier-scholar General Sir Frank Kitson, remain exposed to legal risk is striking and appalling”.



Mary Heenan’s action against Kitson and the Ministry of Defence has not yet received a trial date. No doubt every trick will be used to delay it as long as possible. Kitson is participating in the defense of the action. It is important to note that it is a civil action, not a state prosecution and Mary Heenan is in control of whether or not it will proceed. If it is not derailed by Northern Ireland Office and MoD dirty tricks, the Heenan prosecution could prove to be one of the most important legal actions to arise out of the Troubles.


If it is not derailed by Northern Ireland Office and MoD dirty tricks, the Heenan prosecution could prove one of the most important legal actions to arise out of the Troubles.


One person who will await the trial with concern for the ‘highly distinguished soldier-scholar’ Frank Kitson is his great admirer, David Petraeus.