NEWS IN BRIEF
12 Dec 08. Iraq: OP TELIC. A Corporal from the Royal Engineers died at the Contingency Operating Base in Basrah on 11 Dec 08. The NCO had suffered a gunshot wound but there is no evidence to suggest that anyone else was involved. UK deaths since the start of Operations in March 2003 thus rose to 178, of whom 136 were killed as a result of hostile action. (MoD, 12 Dec 08.)
From 1 Jan 06 to 30 Nov 08, 315 personnel were categorised as Wounded in Action and 1,691 were aeromedically evacuated. (MoD, 17 Dec 08.) From 16 to 30 Nov 08 the figures were nil and 16.
Basrah International Airport is expected to be transferred to the Iraqi civilian authorities “around the turn of the year”. UK personnel are providing advice and assistance to the regeneration efforts for the port of Umm Qasr. (Ministerial Answer (MA), 16 Dec 08.)
The Iraqi and British Prime Ministers issued a joint statement confirming that UK combat troops would end their mission in Iraq by 31 May 09. (MoD, 17 Dec 08.)
In a statement to the House of Commons (18 Dec 08), the Prime Minister said that a “fundamental change of mission” would take place by 31 May 09 at the latest. At that point the UK will start a rapid troop withdrawal, taking the total from just under 4,100 to under 400 by 31 Jul 09. The majority of the remaining troops would be dedicated to Naval training. The Prime Minister added that the UK was to maintain “a large Embassy headed by a Senior Ambassador” in Baghdad and to maintain small missions in Basrah and Erbil.
Comment: In his statement, the Prime Minister also pointed out that UN Resolution 1790 expired on 31 Dec 08 and Iraq would regain full sovereignty. The legal basis for the continuing presence of UK (and other foreign) troops was eventually resolved on 23 Dec 09. (In an ironic coincidence the Iraqi Parliament, like the House of Commons, had difficulties with its Speaker!)
The news of British withdrawal from Iraq initiated considerable critical media comment, causing the Defence Secretary and the Chief of the Defence Staff to fire off their own missives (22 Dec 08). The Chief of the General Staff joined in later in the day during a BBC interview. This particular exchange of views is set to run and run! (Source: DNA DEFENCE NEWS ANALYSIS, Issue 09/01, 29 Dec 08)
25 Dec 08. Afghanistan: OP HERRICK. Four Royal Marines were killed in two incidents in the Sangin area on 12 Dec 08: a Sergeant, a Corporal and a Lance Corporal were from 45 Commando and a Marine was from the Commando Logistic Regiment. A Lieutenant from 29 Commando Regiment, Royal Artillery, was killed when his gun position near Gereshk was attacked on 15 Dec 08. A Rifleman from 1st Bn The Rifles was killed during combat in Zarghun Kalay on 17 Dec 08. A Royal Marine Corporal from the Commando Logistic Regiment was killed when his Viking vehicle was involved in an explosion near Lashkar Gah on 21 Dec 08. A Lance Corporal from 42 Commando was killed by enemy fire during a fire-fight in Nad-E-Ali District on 24 Dec 08. UK deaths since the start of Operations in October 2001 thus rose to 136, of whom 109 were killed as a result of hostile action. (MoD, 25 Dec 08.)
From 1 Jan 06 to 30 Nov 08, 526 personnel were categorised as Wounded in Action and 1,558 were aeromedically evacuated. (MoD, 17 Dec 08.) From 16 to 30 Nov 08 the figures were two and 31.
Elements of 42 Commando, supporting an Afghan-led Operation, uncovered some 400kg of wet opium and a weapons cache in the Nawa area. (MoD, 12 Dec 08.)
The Prime Minister visited British troops at Camp Bastion on 13 Dec 08. (MoD, 15 Dec 08.)
“In Afghanistan, considerable progress has been made but the insurgency remains resilient.” (MA, 15 Dec 08.)
In a Statement, the Prime Minister said that the number of troops in Afghanistan was being increased from just over 8,000 to around 8,300 until August 2009. (Hansard, 15 Dec 08.)
In the year to 30 Nov 08, 23 personnel suffered amputations following operational inj