Increase in Afghan troops ‘a matter for the Government’

Author: By Craig Woodhouse, Press Association

General Sir Richard Dannatt said any decision on increasing the number of
service personnel in the country would be a matter for the Government, but
suggested it would not be beyond the Army’s capability.

He also said a reduction in troop numbers from 9,000 after the Afghan
elections in August would be the “wrong thing to do”.

Gen Dannatt, who is retiring as Chief of General Staff later this month,
argued that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) may have to use money allocated
for other projects to finance the war in Afghanistan if it cannot convince
the Treasury to provide additional resources.

And he said he would present ministers with a “shopping list” to help protect
troops from roadside bombs.

A bloody start to July in Afghanistan, which saw the deaths of 15 UK service
personnel in just 10 days, has sparked a debate about whether operations in
the country are being adequately financed.

There have been reports that military chiefs requested an additional 2,000
troops but were rebuffed.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has insisted that UK troops in Afghanistan are
“properly equipped” and promised: “We will do whatever is necessary and what
is right to equip our Armed Forces.”

Asked on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme whether he had requested 2,000
troops, Gen Dannatt said that figure was not officially in the public
domain.

And he added: “Two thousand troops as an ask like that, we have not asked for
as such.

“What I will point to is the way our force in Afghanistan has increased from
about 3,500 this time three years ago to 9,000 where we are now.

“Now there is a thought out there that, from 9,000 that we are growing up to,
that it might come down to 8,300. My observation from looking at this
operation over the last couple of days is that that would be the wrong thing
to do.”

Gen Dannatt said General Stanley McChrystal, the new US military commander in
Afghanistan, was carrying out a review of what he needs.

And he said: “There may well be a case for what I would call a short-term
uplift. Let’s not use the surge word, that’s sort of been worked to
extinction in Iraq previously.

“But there may well be a case – and our Government will have to confront it if
asked – for about 12 to 18 months while the Afghan national army can get the
right strength down here, for us to uplift.

“It would be the right thing in the short term for us to stay at 9,000. Down
to 8,300 would be wrong – militarily I’m quite clear about that, and, as a
member of the Chiefs of Staff committee, I couldn’t sign up to that now.”

Around 12,000 troops had been deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan at one point,
Gen Dannatt said – a figure he did not want to return to.

But he added: “If there was a short-term uplift requirement for somewhere
above 9,000, from the Army’s point of view I would not say we could not do
it – the Government must decide. But only when Gen McChrystal has asked the
question, if he asks the question.”

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