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Archive for July 11th, 2009

The newspapers, television and other media are covering the war in Afghanistan with increasing vigour and today we learn of the death of eight soliders in the past 24 hours. The bravery of these young men and women from all walks of life and military rank is remarkable; few of us can even imagine what they face daily in Afghanistan in our name.

The Secretary of State for Defence, Bob Ainsworth, warned days ago that a major  joint operation with the United States is under way to provide the opportunity in Helmand Province for the Afghan authorities to govern if and when the Taliban are cleared out. The United States is providing the main force but we have significant numbers of troops deployed. It seems, yet again, that we are deploying troops without sufficient back up and resources in terms of equipment – and this, if true, is not the fault of the military.  It is the fault of government and, ultimately, whether we like to face this or not, it is our fault.  The government governs in our name and we have the right to speak in protest at the way the government is acting.

There will, we are told, be more soldiers killed.

I read in the Independent this morning…

The Government will, however, face questions about the way it has responded to the call from military commanders to send reinforcements to Afghanistan.

The senior command had wanted to send about 2,500 extra troops, but Gordon Brown refused the request, agreeing to the temporary deployment of 700 just for the period of the Afghan elections scheduled for August.

One of the senior officers intimately involved in drawing up the reinforcement plan said last night: “What has happened has shown the sheer danger our forces face out there day in, day out. We know the force levels needed for safety. This was not a spurious request and there is sincere hope the Government will think again.”


The prime minister is reported as saying…

Mr Brown acknowledged: “This is a very hard summer and it is not over.” He sought to justify the conflict, stressing: “We knew from the start that beating the insurgency in Helmand would be hard and dangerous but it is vital. People in Britain are safer because of the courageous sacrifice of British soldiers.”

If Mr Brown refused to deploy the 2500 troops requested,  the question is why?  We are committed to a bloody and dangerous war to preserve the security of our nation and other nations.  This is the line being taken by our government.  I would have thought that equipping troops properly – not promises to do so in the future – is far more important than spending in many places and other projects elsewhere.  This is a war.  It is not a peacetime training exercise and if military commanders feel that they do not have adequte support, sufficient equipment and kit, then it is our duty – surely? – to ensure that the troops get it by asking searching questions of government.

This is not a party political issue anymore, even if it may have started out that way.  This is a matter of conscience.  We ask troops to act in our name.  It is not enough to honour their deaths with hastily rushed words in Parliament and funeral corteges and medals. We must, as a country, do everything in our power to minimise the risk for the men and women on the ground and ensure that our troops are effectively deployed with proper resources and equipment.

A final thought… I don’t know how you feel, but I feel a bit uncomfortable that those in our society who are making very high profits from the law, business, entertainment and the like – because we do enjoy freedom and security as a result of military action in Iraq and Afghanistan should enjoy such high profits when soldiers on the ground are not properly equipped.  I am told that US troops have far better equipment and resources.

Maybe a voluntary  fund to get donations from lawyers, entertainers, bankers, estate agents, television personalities and everyone minded to help would be a way of providing money for this extra equipment.  Of course, I am being naive. A fund for military equipment?

Why not, we raise millions for Tsunami victims, earthquake victims, starving children in Africa, cats, dogs… why not our forces?

Any Celebrities out there who are prepared to help on this one?  Perhaps we could ask on Twitter and on facebook?… even if you just want to lobby the government to tell us the truth on the matter. Is the government right or are the soldiers on the ground right?

This article in The Independent makes stark reading.

Meanwhile, a former head of the Armed Forces yesterday accused the Government of putting UK forces at risk and spending the “minimum they could get away with” on defence.General Lord Guthrie, chief of the defence staff from 1997 to 2001, said commanders on the ground were struggling with too few troops.

He told the Daily Mail: “I spoke to an officer the other day who said that the Treasury had affected the operational safety of our soldiers, by preventing an uplift in our numbers.”

It is “very likely” that fewer soldiers would have been killed by roadside bombs in Afghanistan if ministers had provided funding for more helicopters, he added.

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