Wednesday, 18 May 2022
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Statement made to the House of Commons by Rt Hon John Hutton MO, UK Secretary of State for Defence

I wish to make a statement on the results of a recent MOD review of records of detention resulting from security operations carried out by UK Armed Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is essential I believe that our Armed Forces are able to detain people who pose a real threat, either to our troops, those of our allies, or to the local population that we are seeking to protect. These operations are conducted by our forces with courage, integrity and professionalism and in undertaking these operations we take fully into account our obligations under international law.

In February last year, allegations were made that persons captured by UK forces in Iraq were transferred to US detention facilities were mistreated and removed unlawfully from Iraq.

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By Graham Moonie

Figures from the UN show that Opium production in Afghanistan fell in 2008. This is only the second time production in the region has not risen since an all time low under the Taliban in 2001.

Opium production trends

Opium production in Afghanistan has been increasing steadily for the last twenty years with a particular surge in 2006 and 2007. This two year period produced record crops with production increased in all areas of the country, not just in the traditional growing areas in the fertile south and west.

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By Rep Ike Skelton, Chairman, House Armed Services Committee, U.S.Congress

More than anything else, I am pleased that we finally have a strategy to address Afghanistan and Pakistan. Afghanistan has been the forgotten war, and President Obama corrects this regrettable mistake. There is no guarantee of success with this strategy, but not having a strategy, as we have not for the past eight years, is certainly a guarantee of failure. At last, we can finally see a way ahead in this most important war.

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Often unreported by the Western media, strikes against suspected terrorist sites in Pakistan from unmanned aerial vehicles are a regular occurrence. But this is not a cost-free option, as the suicide bombing that killed 7 CIA operatives showed - and that incident can be linked directly back to networks hit repeatedly in Pakistan.

Many of the strikes are chronicled by our friends at The Long War Journal. Their analysis shows that casualty levels have risen drastically over the last 3 years: 73 Taliban/ Al Qaeda in 2007; 286 Taliban/Al Qaeda and 31 civilians in 2008; 404 Taliban/ Al Qaeda and 43 civilians up to the end of September. Almost all of these took place in the tribal agencies of North and South Waziristan.

The purpose of these strikes (many of which are unacknowledged or revealed in Pakistan when "civilians" are killed) is to disrupt Al Qaeda networks and Taliban operations in Afghanistan, plus Pakistani Taliban leaders who threaten that state. It should also be noted that more than 70% of US and NATO supplies pass through Pakistan's north-west provinces.

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Quite rightly there is much focus on those who die on operations while serving their country in Afghanistan - here at Defence Viewpoints we highlight every such incident and publish extensive eulogies to those who fall.

But we've also noted previously that there are a large number of wounded who don't get anything like the attention. Hedley Court does superb work, and is now getting more of the funds which, as a charity, it needs.

The MoD now quietly publishes on its website, slightly in arrears, details of non fatal casualties.

From 7 October 2001 to 15 June 2009, there were 168 deaths (132 KIA and 9 died of wounds)

There were 210 very seriously, and 673 seriously wounded and 2,488 field hospital admissions, resulting in 2,125 aeromed evacuations.



This is a strange series which appears to start at number 2.

The reality is that the first realistic analysis was made by the Chief of the Defence Staff Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup in his 2008 speech on Iraq and Afghanistan which we published in full on 1st December 2008. Today he published immediate reaction to the deaths of 8 UK soldiers in 24 hour, which we reproduce below. The sting is in the tail, and from which we draw the sub heading for this piece.

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In an immediate reaction to UK casualties in Afghanistan (8 dead in 24 hours, no news on wounded, as usual with MoD announcements) British Foreign Secretary David Miliband spoke to the BBC Radio 4 "Today" programme about the situation in Afghanistan on 11 July 2009.

This transcript was published and publicised by the Foreign Office:

John Humphrys (JH): Eight British Servicemen have been killed in Afghanistan in twenty four hours. That fact, hideous though it may be, does nothing to change the intellectual argument for the British presence there. But emotionally and politically it may well change everything.

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Cartoon in The Observer 19th July : Taliban fighter says "The sooner you give up on this war and go home, the sooner we can get back to beheading infidels, stoning women, persecuting school girls, producing heroin and exporting jihad in peace."


From liberation to bachabasi

By Paul Flynn MP

It's easier to repeat an old lie than reveal a new truth.

Politicians are in denial and refuse to confront the deep futility of the war in Afghanistan. It's more comfortable to tilt at the windmills of peripheral issues. Last year it was blaming fellow Europeans for dodging their share of the burden. Now, it's the myth that more troops and helicopters are solutions.

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Joe Biden
US Vice-President Joe Biden has told the BBC today that the war in Afghanistan is in the interests of the US and the UK.
"It is worth the effort we are making," he said, warning that the terror groups on the border with Pakistan could "wreak havoc" on Europe and the US. The number of foreign troop deaths has jumped recently, sparking questions in the UK over its involvement in the war. Mr Biden suggested more sacrifice would have to be made during what he termed the "fighting season". He was speaking to the BBC's Jonathan Beale during a European trip which has taken him to Ukraine and Georgia. The vice-president insisted that "in terms of national interest of Great Britain, the US and Europe, [the war in Afghanistan] is worth the effort we are making and the sacrifice that is being felt". He added: "And more will come". He said forces were for the first time directly tackling Taleban fighters in some areas of the country (see map below) "This, unfortunately, is the fighting season [...] the trees are up in the mountains again, people are able to infiltrate from the hills of Pakistan, and in Helmand province - where the Taleban had free rein for a number of years, we are engaging them now." And he reiterated the Obama administration's rationale for the conflict. "This is the place from which the attacks of 9/11 and all those attacks in Europe that came from al-Qaeda have flowed from that place - between Afghanistan and Pakistan." He said the terror groups who sheltered along the Afghan-Pakistan border combined with the country's role in the international drug trade - supplying 90% of the world's heroin - meant the war in Afghanistan needed to succeed. "It is a place that, if it doesn't get straightened out, will continue to wreak havoc on Europe and the United States," he said. He said the goal of the US was both "eradicating terrorism and not planting the seeds for its return," underlining the importance of removing the lucrative heroin-producing poppy crop which funds both al-Qaeda and radical jihadists. Over the last few years, the US has used controversial drone attacks to hit militant targets in Pakistan from Afghanistan. Pakistan has in the past expressed concerns about the impact of such military offensives in southern Afghanistan on south-west Pakistan as militants seep over the border into the restive Baluchistan province. Mr Biden was full of praise for British troops, calling them "among the best trained and bravest warriors in the world". But he was unable to comment on the standard of equipment that British troops had been given. A political row has broken out in the UK over the adequacy of British troops' equipment, after Foreign Office Minister Lord Malloch Brown told a reporter that "we definitely don't have enough helicopters". Lord Malloch Brown later withdrew his remarks. Critics say British troops' lack of helicopters has made them more vulnerable to roadside explosives. Mr Biden said that he was "not in a position to make a judgement" but said he assumed they had all they needed. Asked about the recent announcement that a report on the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison camp was being delayed, Mr Biden said the administration had been busy trying to determine what should happen to each of the detainees held there. "We are going through every single detainee's records ... to make a judgement about whether or not they should be tried [or] ... released and if so what country might take them if we can't get them back to the country of origin because they're going to be tortured or mistreated," he said. But he expressed confidence that the camp would still be closed according to the timetable laid out by President Barack Obama in January, and hinted that some of the detainees would be retained at another prison. "We expect before January - well before January - we will have a decision on each and every individual being held."

125 extra British Army personnel will deploy to Afghanistan from Monday 27 July to reinforce UK forces there. They comprise of a company from 3rd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment (Duke of Wellington's), specialist counter Improvise Explosive Device personnel from 11 Explosive Ordnance Disposal Regiment The Royal Logistic Corps, and members of 19th Regiment Royal Artillery.

They will deploy for the remainder of the current 19 Light Brigade tour (Op Herrick 10), due to end in October when 11 Light Brigade takes over (Full details will be published in Defence Viiewpoints on 27th July).

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The force elements deploying as 11 Light Brigade from October 2009 to April 2010 include:

* Headquarters, 6 (UK) Division

* 11 Light Brigade Headquarters and Signal Squadron (261)

* Headquarters, 8 Force Engineer Brigade

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By Brigadier Tim Radford, Commander, Task Force Helmand

(a speech delivered on 9th July 2009)

Task Force Helmand is one half of the ISAF force in this province, comprising some six thousand troops from the United Kingdom, Denmark and Estonia. As many of you know, three weeks ago my Task Force launched Operation PANCHAI PALANG, and even as I speak to you today, we are continuing our deliberate advance to clear anti-Afghan forces from key towns and villages in central Helmand.

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Task Force Chosin, Afghanistan

More coalition soldiers have died in July than in any previous month in the nine-year war in Afghanistan. Last week, the soldier who slept on the cot next to me was killed. A rocket-propelled grenade fired from a snow-capped mountain in remote Nuristan Province killed Staff Sgt. Eric Lindstrom, a father of twin baby girls and the best squad leader in the platoon.

Strangely, our military leaders rarely talk about the battles here. They urge shooting less and drinking more cups of tea with village elders. This is the new face of war—counterinsurgency defined as nation-building, an idealistic blend of development aid and John Locke philosophy. Our generals say that the war is "80% non-kinetic."

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Just before the Summer Recess, Parliament dealt with Defence Questions. Here's the underlying Government brief on the current situation.

• Britain is in Afghanistan as part of one of the widest ever international coalitions, to protect democracy in Afghanistan, our own national security and global stability.

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By Bill Rammel MP, Minister for the Armed Forces

The first duty of government is to keep its people safe. Our National Security Strategy, updated earlier this year, sets out the threats we face. It shows how far the threats have evolved, and why an agile, cross-government response is required.

9/11 was a catalyst for change. Those images of planes flying into the twin towers are seared on our consciousness. On 7th July 2005, 52 innocent people were killed and 700 injured on the London underground and bus network by suicide bombers. This time the terrorists were British citizens working with Al Qaeda.

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The following quotations from Hansard show what the former Secretary of State for Defence John Reid promised, pledged, expected or hoped about the arrival of UK troops in Helmand province/ Afghanistan and in particular that the mission would be completed easily, speedily or entirely peacefully.

Hansard 13th July 2009 Columns 3-4

Mr. Michael Ancram (Devizes) (Con): ........on what basis was it said on behalf of the Government before we deployed that it was hoped that

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Hundreds of ISAF coalition troops have attacked a network of narcotics labs in the Sangin valley in Afghanistan as part of a substantial air assault which saw them seize a large amount of opium and kill a number of insurgents.

Eighteen UK, US and Australian helicopters carrying 300 soldiers from The 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, accompanied by Afghan troops, dropped into the Taliban held area just after nightfall on 7 August 2009.

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By Michael Yon

Here in North Helmand Provence, near Sangin, I am told that less than 300 people voted. In this area the day was marked by serious fighting. Apache attack helicopters were firing their cannons throughout the day. The howitzers fired many times. The mortars were firing. Various bases were attacked. On the mission I accompanied the snipers were firing. We got into a firefight, and the soldier beside me had his antenna shot off. I would not characterize this as a failure of the elections, it was a local setback. We saw the same in Iraq in early 2005, where some people boycotted the elections. The situation here is not good, but this is only one area of Afghanistan. I do not know what happened elsewhere.

You can follow Michael Yon on Twitter at


A British Chinook helicopter has been deliberately destroyed by ISAF Forces at 1605 local time having sustained damage on landing approximately 10km East of Sangin at 0530 this morning, Sunday 30 August 2009.

In addition to the four crew members the helicopter was carrying 15 soldiers from 2 RIFLES Battlegroup who were being inserted into the area as part of an ongoing security operation.

The aircraft is believed to have suffered a 'hard landing' and sustained damage to the undercarriage, nose and front rotor which subsequently made it unflyable. The crew and passengers were unharmed. The troops continued with the operation and the crew were extracted by one of the two other Chinooks also on the operation.

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Latest from the Ministry of Defence

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