Tag Archives: government

PM ‘refused extra Afghan troops’

General Sir Richard Dannatt

General Sir Richard Dannatt

Prime Minister Gordon Brown ignored military chiefs advice and refused a reinforcement of British troops in Afghanistan, the former head of the Army has said.

General Sir Richard Dannatt, who made himself very unpopular in Whitehall with his straight talking manner, told the Sun that ministers had to be taken “screaming and kicking” to agree to necessary measures, and that for some time the military had been operating “at least part of one arm tied behind one’s back”.

Of course Downing Street has come out and denied the claims, effectively calling General Dannatt a liar. Whilst Dannatt was still in office civil servants were briefing against him, no doubt unhappy with his frank statements about the lack of funding and equipment for the armed forces. He would normally have been a candidate for promotion to Chief of the Defence Staff, but this was vetoed by the Prime Minister.

If more reinforcements are needed, and the Government is – for whatever reason – unwilling to approve them, then they should put pressure on our NATO allies, some of whom are contributing very little at the moment. In one sense the Government is right to be careful about troop increases, as we are overstretched as it is. In a sense more British troops would only add added pressure.

But there are bigger issues than troop increases here. The armed forces may have a duty to follow the direction of the Government, but they also have an equally important duty to their men and women below them. The fact remains that our servicemen and women are being asked to put their life on the line, and soldiers respect commanders who stand up for them with the politicians. Some things go beyong party politics, and defence policy should be one of them. It is a dangerous precedent to set for Generals who speak the truth as they see it to be hounded out of office for not following the party line. This happened frequently in the first world war – generals who didnt say what the government wanted to hear were fired. And Winston Churchill himself was notoriously impatient with his Generals.

Hopefully Richard Dannatt will publish his memoirs. They would make very interesting reading indeed.

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Filed under Afghanistan, Army, debate, News, politics

Navy at ‘minimum capability’

Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope

Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope

The Royal Navy is at its ‘minimum capability’, First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope has told the Portsmouth Evening News.

With a full defence spending review likely whoever wins the next General Election, the armed forces have already begun talking about possible cuts. Admiral Stanhope warned that he faced a battle in the Defence Review, and that the Navy could take no more cuts if it was to carry on with its existing roles. Not only does it have its existing roles to think about, but also any unforseen developments on the global stage. Who could have predicted 9/11 and the impact it would have on global security?

With massive cuts in public spending necessary in light of the global recession and spiralling national debt, it is inevitable that some Defence projects will come under threat. This is a difficult balance to find. Big construction projects, such as shipbuilding, secure many jobs around the country, and are vital to economic recovery in several industries. Also, we are committed to projects such as the Eurofighter Typhoon. Even though we probably dont need 200+ Eurofighters, we were committed to ordering that many to keep the international consortium building them afloat.

Public support for the Army is very strong at present, given its visible role in Afghanistan, and the persistent outcry over the lack of and inferiority of equipment issued to troops serving in theatre. The price of a few Eurofighters would pay for a hell of a lot of top quality body armour.

The Royal Navy faces a particularly though time, as it has committed itself to two huge 60,000 ton aircraft carriers, at the expense of frigates and destroyers. Indeed, the new Type 45 Destroyer was cut from a planned 12 ships to an eventual order for 6, which of course is nowhere near enough. There are as yet no firm plans to replace the Type 22 and Type 23 Frigates. Ships can only be in one place at any time, and for every ship on duty, you have to plan for at least 1, possibly 2 being in port or refit.

One cannot help if we might have been better served with several smaller, cheaper aircraft carriers and more escorts to protect them. The first Aircraft Carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, will be safe as work has already started on her and it would cost more to cancel her. But the second, HMS Prince of Wales, will almost certainly come under threat. We could potentially be left with one huge and expensive to run aircraft carrier, which is far too inflexible.

As much as politicians may give credit to our armed forces, their commitment – or lack of it – really shows when it comes to finding the money to back them up for real. Defence Reviews are a notoriously tricky business and have caused the demise of more than one politician, as John Nott will testify.

Expect to see more Generals, Admirals and Air Marshals making their cases in the news in the coming months.

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Filed under Army, Navy, News, politics, Royal Air Force