Thursday, 23 July 2009

PM appears to say 'We have enough helicopters in Afghanistan'- Why then Gordy are more being sent?

Whilst the debate rages on, he soldiers on...

One thing I regret about this blog is that I have not blogged enough about defence and the overseas operations being carried out supposedly to that end. However I cannot ignore the current morass in Afghanistan. Read the Telegraph article if only for the comments below it. What annoys me though is the continued double speak by our ruling politicians. Examples include saying 'we could send more helicopters'. Anyone get that I don't? Could or should? I mean we could send a P&O cross channel ferry for that matter. However we do need them. I don't believe that Afghanistan is a lost cause, however a lack of aerial mobility will render our troops very vulnerable. I can be convinced that defeating or at least containing the Taleban insurgency is best for the region. If only to prop up up the governments in Kabul and Islamabad. Besides if the Taleban emerge victorious a huge price will be paid for all. That said I wish both the UK and US governments had realised that much sooner. I'll conclude by copying the superb comment by 'JL' in the Telegraph:

'15 July: General Dannatt - we need more helicopters.

16 July: Brown - no you don't.

17 July: Jock Stirrup - we need more helicopters.

19 July: John Hutton - they need more helicopters.

20 July: Mandelson - no they don't.

21 July: Malloch-Brown - they need more helicopters.

22 July: Brown - no they don't.

22 July: Malloch-Brown - they have enough.

23 July: Rammell - we may send more helicopters......Meanwhile yet another soldier dies in Helmand.This has gone beyond farce. If we have to fight this war then fund and equip it properly. Otherwise get out.'

I could not agree more.

More men and helicopters 'could be sent to Afghanistan'- The Telegraph

Hundreds more troops could soon be sent to Afghanistan, a defence minister hinted yesterday.
Downing Street has already said that the 700 extra troops sent to Helmand temporarily for the operation to protect the integrity of next month’s elections will stay, probably to help to train Afghan troops. However, Bill Rammell, the Armed Forces Minister, hinted that the current total of 9,150 could be increased further as military chiefs call for up to 2,500 more soldiers on the ground.

Earlier Gordon Brown accepted the case for more helicopters in the region. In a change of tone, he acknowledged that more were required for the “general” Afghan mission and said that they were being ordered. He denied that a lack of helicopters was costing British lives after Lord Malloch-Brown, the Foreign Office Minister, appeared to back criticism that the British force was not properly equipped. Lord Malloch-Brown told The Daily Telegraph: “We definitely don’t have enough helicopters.” Under pressure from No 10, he later issued a clarification: “There are without doubt sufficient resources in place for current operations.”

The issue dominated the Prime Minister’s monthly press conference at which Mr Brown insisted: “For the operation we are doing at the moment we have the helicopters we need.” He also described as completely wrong any assertion that the recent loss of lives had been caused by an absence of helicopters. “More helicopters in general, yes,” he said. “That is why we are putting them into Afghanistan.” More Merlins would be there by the end of the year, more Chinooks next year, and numbers had increased by 60 per cent over two years, he said.

The remarks put the Prime Minister more in line with the approach taken by present and former British commanders, who have been calling for more help to tackle the Taleban.
Earlier, on a visit to Salisbury Plain where he met troops preparing to deploy to Afghanistan, Mr Rammell confirmed that a review of troop numbers there would take place after the Afghan elections. Asked if he would meet the desire of military chiefs who have asked for an additional 2,000 to 2,500 troops in Afghanistan, the minister said: “This is a Government that does listen to the advice that it gets from the service chiefs. That is why we increased the numbers from 5,500 to 9,000.” He added that the figure was kept under review.

General Sir Richard Dannatt, who will be replaced in August by General Sir David Richards as head of the Army, said last week that he wanted more “boots on the ground”, regardless of whether they were British, US or Afghan. Additional British troops are ready to head out to the front line if called upon. Brigadier James Cowan, commander of 11 Light Brigade, the next brigade to deploy to Afghanistan in the autumn, said: “It is up to ministers to decide. I will make do with what I am given. I am a practical man.”

Elsewhere, the Government’s insistence that it has provided enough equipment was questioned by the former commander of British troops in Helmand, who said that the military effort in Afghanistan was “insufficiently resourced” to counter a widespread insurgency. Brigadier Ed Butler, a retired officer, told The World at One on Radio 4: “What is [Mr Brown] defining as the mission at hand? He may be referring to Operation Panther’s Claw but I think the wider campaign in Afghanistan, and this has been the case from the early days, has been insufficiently resourced to undertake a proper counter-insurgency.”

Back soon with my own ideas for defence in the 21st Century.

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