Foreign Office Minister backtracks over helicopter shortage comments

Author: Press Association

The minister issued a “clarification” after he told The Daily Telegraph that
there was “definitely” a need for more helicopters for British troops
fighting the Taliban.

He said in a statement: “On the issue of helicopters in Afghanistan, I was
making the point – as the Prime Minister and commanders on the ground have
also done – that while there are without doubt sufficient resources in place
for current operations, we should always do what we can to make more
available on the front line.”

His statement came after his interview with the Telegraph reopened the dispute
over whether the forces have the helicopters they need to move around the
country with a degree of safety.

He said: “I know from my role as FCO Minister for Afghanistan that this is a
high priority for the Prime Minister and that there is a huge procurement
effort ongoing in the Ministry of Defence to deliver just this.”

He said that helicopter capability had already increased by 84% over the last
two years, and would increase further when the additional Merlin helicopters
were deployed into Afghanistan later this year.

The Nato helicopter fund, which Britain helped establish, would also begin to
deliver additional helicopters this year, he said.

Lord Malloch-Brown – who leaves the Government at the end of the week – issued
his statement as Gordon Brown was preparing to hold his monthly Downing
Street news conference where he is likely to face questions on the issue.

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