With Defence now in purdah, and Labour and the Tories shelving the issue by the device of a post-election review, we must not lose sight of the size of the problem facing the Armed Forces, or of the political courage needed to deal with it.
For as the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, Edward Leigh, concluded in the committee’s Major Projects Report last month: “Britain’s defence budget is fundamentally unaffordable.” Even if spending on defence remains flat, the projected deficit will be some £36 billion. This is not a figure that can be willed away by “efficiency savings” or smarter procurement, or even by cancelling Trident’s replacement.… Seguir leyendo »
A fifth of the infantry is hors de combat. According to the Ministry of Defence, almost 5,000 soldiers and officers are not available for combat duty.
As ever with MoD figures, it is not that straightforward. Some of these combat troops cannot be deployed because they are about to be discharged. Others are excused from action on compassionate grounds. But there are more than a thousand soldiers recovering from wounds or other incapacity sustained on operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
This is a sobering thought, the human price of foreign policy and homeland security; but an even more worrying one to senior officers trying to gear the Army for not only the long haul in Afghanistan, but also for the unforeseen contingencies that Harold Macmillan so pithily summed up as “events”.… Seguir leyendo »
What are the Armed Forces for? As Britain exits Iraq, and Afghanistan moves to the centre of the military stage it is interesting to look back at this Government's ambitions for the Army. In 1998 the Strategic Defence Review, modified by the 2003 White Paper, was clear: “As a norm, and without causing overstretch, the Armed Forces must be capable of conducting three simultaneous and enduring operations of small to medium-scale.”
Despite a defence budget of more than £30 billion we were unable to commit to two. Why? The short answer is that under Gordon Brown the Treasury would not come up with the cash.… Seguir leyendo »
President Obama's special envoy Richard Holbrooke visits Afghanistan this week believing that the new Administration has inherited a “mess... like no other problem we have confronted, and in my view it's going to be much tougher than Iraq”.
At his inauguration the President spoke of forging “a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan”. The British Army has been trying to cope with that mess for three years, and knows how hard-earned peace will be.
When Gordon Brown visited Afghanistan late last year he told the troops: “There is a line of terror that leads from the Pakistan and Afghanistan mountains to the streets of our capital city and our towns if we allow the Taleban and al-Qaeda to flourish.”… Seguir leyendo »