GENERAL SIR RICHARD DANNATT MAKES HIS POINT
By Julian Nettlefold
17 Jul 09. We reported on what we perceive as the Government’s quiet campaign to give the Army as little equipment as they need so that in the end the mission will fail and the Army will be blamed. So far the spin machine has had its way, but once the Army is allowed its say the polished interview by General Sir Richard Dannatt to the BBC today laid down what was required tom in effect save lives and for the Afghan mission to succeed and in effect protect the British public from Terrorist camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Gordon Brown has been lucky in that no terrorist outrage has succeeded in his office, should it, the backlash from the Britsih public will no doubt see the final end to his shaky tenure and what we see as a deference to the Armed Forces and a dislike of the defence industry. But, it is a Government’s duty to defend its people. If his policies in the subtle dismantling of the industry affect national security, there will have to be answers given in more than the delaying tactics reported in today’s Times. The Government do not like the Army giving views for the very reason that they wish to govern the flow of news and the Army’s views as expressed today offer a very different view to the party line offered by Gordon Brown and his cohorts. The open enquiry into the Iraq war will no doubt reveal this control freakery as championed by Alistair Campbell and his team.
The BBC reported that head of the British army has called for better equipment to protect troops from roadside bombs in Afghanistan.
General Sir Richard Dannatt told the BBC he would compile a “shopping list” of what was required and warned that Nato may request more troops.
Gordon Brown insists the Army is properly equipped and denies a helicopter shortage.
The general’s comments came shortly before the 185th British casualty of the conflict was confirmed.
A soldier from the 2nd Battalion The Rifles died in an explosion while on foot patrol near Gereshk in central Helmand, the Ministry of Defence said.
Gen Dannatt’s comments will be seen as careful “parting shots” from a man who leaves his role next month, the BBC’s defence correspondent Caroline Wyatt said.
Gen Dannatt told the BBC it was “critical” to tackle the problem of improvised bombs.
Doing this required more coalition or Afghan personnel to build intelligence, better “overhead surveillance” of Taliban activity and greater technical ability to see where they were planting explosives, he said.
“That will be a shopping list that I’ll bring back,” he said. Continued heavy casualties would cause the British public to doubt the value of the mission, which would be a strategic disaster, he said.
Gen Dannatt repeated calls for the Ministry of Defence to focus its priorities towards the “land environment”, away from navy and air force needs, when carving up its £34bn budget. He has previously called for more British, American or Afghan “boots on the ground” but he said military chiefs had never made a direct request for 2,000 extra personnel.
On Thursday, the prime minister refused to directly confirm or deny whether this request had been received, when he appeared before the Commons liaison committee.
However, the general said Nato commanders may shortly present a case for a “short-term uplift” in numbers.
“Our government will have to confront it, if asked, for about 12 to 18 months until the Afghan army can get the right strength down here [in Helmand],” he said.
It has been suggested that force levels could be reduced to 8,300 after elections planned for next month but that would be wrong, he added.
Earlier this week, the general revealed he was being flown around Helmand in an American helico