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British MPs Want More Troops for Afghanistan

“We remain deeply concerned that the reluctance of some NATO countries to provide troops for the ISAF mission in Afghanistan is undermining NATO’s credibility and also ISAF operations” says the House of Commons Defence Committee in a report published today (Thirteenth Report of Session 2006–07, UK operations in Afghanistan, HC 408).

Identified by General David Richards as one of his biggest concerns during his time as commander of the International Security Assistance Force, too few troops on the ground in support ISAF operations against the Taliban in Southern Afghanistan risk undermining the effectiveness of the mission. The Committee calls on the Ministry of Defence to explain how it will go about persuading other NATO countries to address the shortage of troops in Afghanistan.

While the Committee welcome the additional commitment of helicopters since the initial deployment in 2006, the MPs recommend that the MoD make even greater efforts to increase the provision of appropriate helicopters to UK Forces and sufficient trained air and ground crew. UK helicopter operations in Afghanistan are not sustainable at the present intensity.

Afghanistan is the largest producer of illegal opium in the world and, according to the UN, the problem is growing. The Committee says that the coalition’s strategy lacks clarity and coherence. It fears that uncertainty among Afghans about ISAF’s role in poppy eradication puts UK forces at risk.

Commenting on the report, Committee Chairman Rt Hon James Arbuthnot MP said:

“The challenges facing UK forces in Afghanistan remain huge. The security situation in the South of the country is fragile to say the least and the cultivation of poppy is worse than ever. It is clear that an international presence will be needed there beyond 2009. If that commitment is to succeed, its size and strength must be very great, and in our view considerably greater than the international community is at present willing to acknowledge, let alone to make.

“Our Service personnel, not least our helicopter air and ground crews, are doing a great job in extremely demanding conditions. But they are working to the limit and that cannot go on forever. The MoD must do more or else the whole mission could be undermined.”

Click here for the full report (158 pages in PDF format) on the House of Commons website. (ends)
NATO Allies Must Commit More Troops to Afghanistan Says Defence Committee