General sent home in disgrace from Afghanistan after drinking champagne

One of the UK’s most senior military figures in Afghanistan was sent home in disgrace after drinking champagne with colleagues, The Telegraph can reveal.

Maj Gen Charlie Herbert OBE took up a post in June 2017 in Kabul as deputy advisor to the ministry of the interior, the government department responsible for law enforcement, civil order and fighting crime.

He was responsible for training and mentoring senior Afghan officials and the role included conducting meetings with Afghan government figures, as well as tribal leaders and forging links between the ministry of the interior and other government departments.

The post was meant to last for 12 months, but Maj Gen Herbert came back three months early following a complaint that was submitted about his conduct.

The complaint was about his alleged inappropriate language and behaviour in the workplace, throwing parties at the British embassy and drinking alcohol openly with Afghan colleagues.

He told The Telegraph that he “shared a bottle of champagne” with work colleagues and was “short-toured” because of this, meaning he was removed from his post ahead of the official end of his assignment. He said the other complaints about him were investigated but thrown out.

Once back in the UK, Maj Gen Herbert took up a new position at the defence academy in Swindon before retiring from the Army altogether the following year.

Since retiring in 2019, he has become an outspoken commentator on military affairs, most recently about the Israel-Gaza war.

When Maj Gen Herbert was in Afghanistan, Western efforts to stabilise the country were led by the US which had overall control of military operations. It was hoped that by training the Afghan army, police and civilian officials, the country could eventually operate without Nato assistance.

The Taliban retook control of Afghanistan in 2021, two decades after being removed from power by a US-led military coalition.

The hardline Islamist group advanced rapidly across the country, seizing province after province before taking the capital Kabul as the Afghan military collapsed.

The group had struck a deal with the Americans in 2020 for US troops to withdraw, following a bloody but ultimately successful guerrilla campaign.

Gen Herbert said: “After investigation by the British Army, the allegations referred to were found to be unproven and vexatious with the exception of a single one that I shared a bottle of champagne with some work colleagues, in breach of a US rule on the consumption of alcohol.”

He said he was cleared of the other allegations and “continued to serve with the Army for another 18 months before leaving voluntarily to take up a new role supporting the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in Somalia”.

An Army spokesperson said: “Soldiers at all levels of the British Army are held to the highest standards. If any individual fails to meet these standards, appropriate action is taken.”

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