British troops were placed at a 'permanent disadvantage in Afghanistan because of failures by military chiefs, a damning report reveals yesterday. The Armed Forces were sent into a 'nasty little war in Helmand, a Taliban stronghold in the south, with a lack of defence intelligence, not enough equipment and too few boots on the ground, according to a respected think-tank. Troops were left thinly spread and units of fewer than 100 soldiers were forced to fight 'a series of Alamos against insurgents. The Royal United Services Institute concluded the decision to deploy to the volatile region with a small force was a 'triumph of hope over experience. Senior academics Professor Michael Clarke and Valentina Soria blame top brass for failing to explain the battlefield strategy 'clearly or thoughtfully to ministers. Since the Afghanistan mission began in 2001, 379 UK soldiers have been killed, the majority by roadside bombs in Helmand. Some 3,150 troops were sent to the area, which is three times the size of Wales, by Tony Blair in 2006. The then Defence Secretary John Reid said he hoped 'not a shot would be fired in what was expected to be a three-year campaign. The operation was to begin in a 500 square mile area centred on provincial capital Lashkar Gah, and spread outwards. Brigadier Ed Butler, commander of 16 Air Assault Brigade, raised concerns on a 'weekly basis that he did not have enough mine-protected vehicles, helicopters, troops, interpreters and equipment. Difficulties worsened within weeks when forces were asked by local leaders to 'charge up into northern towns Sangin, Kajaki and Musa Qala to drive out hardcore Taliban fighters. Military leaders in London underestimated the strength of the enemy, the RUSI said. The decision to set up 'platoon houses of between 40 and 100 British troops left them dangerously exposed. Confusion over strategy in Whitehall meant ministers did not have a proper grasp of the complexities of the operation. Britain now has 10,200 vastly better equipped troops covering a smaller area. But Prof Clarke wrote: 'The degree to which the operation was forced to change, virtually from the outset, suggests it was not well conceived. 'The UK took on a nasty little war for essentially abstract political reasons, and then found itself deeply embroiled in a long game of catch-up, for essentially operational reasons. This is a sober lesson at the end of ten years of war. (The Mail)