A British soldier in Afghanistan has told the Defence Secretary ‘more troops are needed on the ground, BBC News reports.
Bob Ainsworth had asked Staff Sgt Kim Hughes, a bomb disposal specialist, what was his “top desire from right here at the chalkface”.
Staff Sgt Hughes explained: “More equipment’s ideal, I mean we have lightweight equipment coming in gradually … but more troops on the ground, more equipment, less troops on the ground, less equipment.”
Ainsworth went on to explain that any boost in troop numbers had to be borne across the coalition of countries deploying troops in Afghanistan, and not just the UK. And he certainly has a point. The British Army is already at a critical point of overstretching, with many troops having to return to Afghanistan for 6 month tours within a year of their last tour. The statistics also suggest that Helmand is one of the most challenging assignments in Afghanistan, compared to some of the relatively peaceful areas where other countries troops are based.
In many ways not having enough troops could be as dangerous as having none there at all. Without the men to hold ground, troops frequently have to withdraw and let the Taliban return after they have been routed. More men on the ground should mean more security, and more of a visible presence that ISAF is a much more viable alternative than the Taliban.
Given the long-running controversy about lack of equipment and safe armoured vehicles for the Army to use in Helmand, the Government will probably be happier for attention to fall on troop numbers. Britain is quite clearly doing more than its bit and the general public probably feel that it is the responsibility of others to contribute more.
But even so, this should not detract from the fact that the Government has a duty to provide our servicemen and women with the very best that they can.