Do UK troops in Afghanistan have the right back up?

July 13, 2009

Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth came under criticism on Monday over a shortage of military equipment in Afghanistan, where 15 British soldiers have been killed in the past two weeks.

The deaths highlight the shortage of helicopters, especially Chinooks, which can carry large numbers of troops and equipment over long distances, say the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.

The parties argue that the troops are in difficult circumstances and too vulnerable on the ground.

More helicopters and vehicles will be sent to the war zone next year, Ainsworth said. For now, helicopter flying hours have been increased.

Should the government spend more on equipment for British troops in Afghanistan now, or should they wait until next year?


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Maybe I’m imagining it, but it seems like only a few years since the armchair generals were telling us all that you shouldn’t use helicopters in Afghanistan because the Mujaheddin had ready access to Stinger missiles.

Even if they don’t, these days you can bring a chopper down with a high intensity laser pen, which probably costs the same as one IED, but can be used again and again. Switching from one mode of transport to another in order to satisfy opposition politicians appears unlikely to help much.

Posted by Ian Kemmish | Report as abusive

All three services are undermanned, overstretched and inadequatelly funded. The government needs to increase both short and long term funding in defence to support the foreign policy objectives across the board. Diverting existing funds to Afghanistan will just increase operational risk elsewhere.

Posted by Karma | Report as abusive

You can’t fight wars without suffering casualties, and in the context of this fight these casualties are extremely low.

8 people were killed EVERY DAY on the roads in the UK in 2008 (a record low!) – where were the headlines then? Media-driven nonsense.

Posted by Matthew | Report as abusive

Those people killed in the UK on the roads were not sent out on them by the government. While tragic, it is a bit different.

Posted by Jason | Report as abusive

Everyone can’t be wrong. Our troops simply do not have the equipment to do the job. A blind man can see that. Defense costs big money and the Government has to decide what it wants. They certainly are not representing me or my values in asking troops to do this highly dangerous work – in my name – without either the right equipment or sufficient equipment. Would the Prime Minister or Foreign Secretary want their sons and daughters exposed in the same way? I don’t think so. No other parents would, either. What’s more, most of the people against defense spending would be the first hiding behind our troops if the fight was nearer to our shores.

Armament commissioning should be carried out by the Chiefs of staff and not by civil servants who have no experience of any scenario in the Forces and who havn’t got a clue about the practicalities and implications of theatre.

My heart goes out to the families of our fallen heroes.

Posted by Yvonne | Report as abusive

Lets keep it simple, we shouldnt even be in afghanistan.
WE are not the world police OR Americas lapdog, secure our borders and our cities from the terrorists before we start fighting them in the middle east. Our government should be apologising publically to every serviceman injured or killed and their families, aswell as the current soldiers being sent out to that hell hole not knowing what they’re fighting for and apologise everyone affected by the bogus “War on terror”

Posted by intheknow | Report as abusive

To expand on the point about the procurement cycle, about 60% of the manpower in the approvals process is uniformed and nowadays the vast majority of those have got recent operational experience. In the civil service a posting in the deployed environment is now virtually essential for promotion, so many do have operational experience, if not pointy end.

Equipment is only one part of the system, it also needs adequate numbers of people, training and logistic support to make that equipment usable and operationally effective.

Defence needs an urgent uplift in both the budget for Urgent Operational Requirements and in the Equipment Plan for longer term funding of major capital investment. Money to support current operations means that longer term maintenance and support is being hugely depleted, storing up problems in sustainment in even the medium term.

Posted by Karma | Report as abusive

Why not change the question to: Should our souldier be in Afghanistan.
The UK spends over $100,000 and US $ over 200,000 per year per soldier serving in Afghanistan.
For that amount of money we can train hundreds of Afghan Police and soldier, and if the Afghan Government fails to meat standards, we can hold them responsible and accountable. Like this we spend less money and save the lives of our soldiers.
Right now they both blame each other for failure, and at the end no one is held responsible.

Posted by Siddiq | Report as abusive

Our soldiers should not be there. Our involvement does not further the defence of the citizens of this country, which would be the only legitimate reason for their deployment. They should be brought home today.

Posted by steve hayes | Report as abusive

At this url: there is a video of an incredibly beautiful song by VALL, a London based singer. The lyrics were writen after the loss of a dear one, and were then extended to encompass the many, many soldiers in Irac and Afghanistan; those who survive, those who don’t.

I can’t help but crying each time I listen to it.


God Bless,

Posted by dom | Report as abusive