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Army chief in Iraq condemns plans to cut ... regiments

#1
from today's Scotsman. They also have a good editorial on the subject

maybe worth making the point that Gen John McColl is NOT from one of the threatened single-Bn regiments

Monday September 13, 03:00 AM

Army chief in Iraq condemns plans to cut the number of regiments
Key points• UK's commander in Iraq warns army cuts endanger current operations • Iraqi ambassador calls on US and UK to increase number soldiers• MoD plan to cut four infantry battalions, including one Scots regiment

Key quote "The army is very busy indeed and the reduction of the four battalions will not help in any way" - General John McColl

Story in full BRITAIN'S most senior soldier in Iraq has openly criticised government plans to cut infantry regiments, warning that the army could be seriously compromised.

General John McColl, the deputy commanding general of the multinational force in Iraq, told The Scotsman that the Ministry of Defence now had to decide whether to make cuts or continue with current levels of operations.

He said that while the size of the army should be increased to cope with its growing number of commitments around the world, it was not possible under "the current constraints".

Although couched in diplomatic terms, such comments from the second in command of all coalition forces in Iraq will cause embarrassment in Whitehall at a time when the Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Mike Jackson, has forbidden senior officers from discussing cuts in the number of regiments.

The high level criticism comes after Iraq's new UN ambassador, Samir Sumaida'ie called on Britain and the United States to increase their number of troops in Iraq to prevent it from degenerating into a "super rogue state".

Ministry of Defence plans to cut four infantry battalions - including one Scottish regiment - have provoked a fierce debate within the army. Opponents claim that the cuts have been forced on the MoD by the Treasury, with Gordon Brown refusing to sanction extra cash for defence spending to cover the cost of expensive equipment projects, such as the Eurofighter, which have overrun their budgets dramatically.

The cuts will also mean a restructuring of the army in Scotland, with a decision due imminently on whether to roll up all the existing regiments into one super-regiment, or to opt for one Highland and one Lowland regiment.

Gen McColl said that the gap between soldiers' tours of duty is shrinking, and with coalition forces expected to stay in Iraq until at least 2006, when Iraq's own forces are due to assume control, that would place greater strain on the army's resources.

"We are tight. Tour intervals are down and the army is very committed," he said. "Northern Ireland is still going along and there are tours in Bosnia, Afghanistan, the Falklands and Cyprus, among others.

"The army is very busy indeed and the reduction of the four battalions will not help in any way."

He said politicians had to decide whether they wanted to retain their existing commitments or cut army numbers.

"What the Ministry of Defence and our political masters have to take into consideration is that the army can do less in terms of garrison tasks. You either work the army harder or do less with them."

In extremis, he said, it was possible to commit more troops for a limited period, such as a war fighting task: "But in terms of things that are measured in years, our capacity to conduct a number of these commitments is reduced with a reduction in the number of infantry battalions."

He said that any extra commitments in Iraq could have a knock on effect on the deployment of British troops elsewhere in the world. In the end, he said, the restructuring of the army was necessary because of the constraints placed upon it, and that meant that the four battalions had to go and that Britain would have to reduce its commitments around the world.

"I would obviously rather see the size of the army is increased to allow us to have the manpower to support the increases that are required elsewhere and keep the four battalions that we are losing, but that is clearly not possible under the current constraints.

"It is the right decision provided we cut our cloth to our size and capacity."

General Sir Mike Jackson, the architect of the restructuring, responded to criticisms of the plans by insisting that they could make the army more flexible.

By abolishing the so-called arms plot, where regiments rotate between foreign postings, training and home bases, defence planners will make more units available for active service. Gen Jackson told the Spectator: "Does tomorrow's 36 deployable general purpose battalions rather than today's 26 to 27 constitute a grave threat to the army's war fighting capability? I think not.

"I am satisfied that the future size and structure of the British army, coupled with future technological advances will provide the enhanced capability that all serving soldiers seek."

Despite his robust defence of the plans, Gen Jackson arrived in Iraq yesterday to reassure soldiers they still have complete support from him and the Ministry of Defence - morale has been hit by the planned cuts and a string of civilian prosecutions against serving soldiers over violent incidents in Iraq.

Gen Jackson's political master, Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, will also come under renewed pressure over the regimental cuts this week. On Wednesday, he will face a parliamentary grilling from the Scottish National Party.

Pete Wishart, the SNP MP who has convened the debate will warn Mr Hoon of the "massive opposition that exists to these plans" and called on MPs of all parties to oppose the MoD.

The Scotsman recently reported that requests from British commanders in Iraq for reinforcements had been turned down. General McColl confirmed that the British commander in the south of Iraq had requested a reinforcement battalion to help tackle the growing unrest in his sector.

But he claimed that while the number of British troops had not been increased, plans to reduce them by one battalion had been dropped, which he argued did amount to a reinforcement.

General McColl, who has been in Iraq for five months, said the ultimate answer to the current problems in the country lay in the establishment of Iraqi forces which were capable of taking over responsibility for security.

He rejected recent reports which suggested that British troops in the south had withdrawn to their barracks and abandoned regular patrolling, although he said that he believed there was no point in confronting hostile crowds when they gathered.

But on the subject of Muqtada al Sadr and his al-Mahdi army he said the coalition forces were not prepared to give him endless chances.

"We are uncompromising with militias across the country. They do have to lay down their arms, comply with the rule of law and enter the political process," he said.

He said Sadr's followers had an opportunity under the current amnesty to change course and the coalition was doing all it could to improve conditions in Shia areas to demonstrate that living conditions improved in areas where there was peace.

But asked whether Sadr would get another chance after backing down from a number of previous confrontations, the latest in Najaf, General McColl said: "If he doesn't, we will continue to confront those who seek to divert the course of democracy. My understanding is that Muqtada is not above the law."

The general also expressed regret at the recent loss of British lives in southern Iraq, but he rejected the demands of the families of some of those who died for the rest of the soldiers to be brought home, and he said he believed that the coalition was right to persevere. "I have experienced loss in my own regiment on operations and I have got huge sympathy for those who lose loved ones," he said.

"But wherever we have gone, Basra or here [Baghdad], if you speak to the people of the country, the presence of the people deployed has significantly improved the quality of their lives."

By: GETHIN CHAMBERLAIN -- 13-Sep-04
http://uk.news.yahoo.com/040913/17/f2fyq.html
 
#5
Cpl_ripper said:
Rincewind said:
We need this bunch of tw@'s out of parliment and get someone in with a brain and a spine.
Rincewind
And replace them with who exactly?

just a small point
With their record as of late, I thought a monkey from the Zoo would do just as good a job :twisted:
 
E

error_unknown

Guest
#6
dui-lai said:
Cpl_ripper said:
Rincewind said:
We need this bunch of tw@'s out of parliment and get someone in with a brain and a spine.
Rincewind
And replace them with who exactly?

just a small point
With their record as of late, I thought a monkey from the Zoo would do just as good a job :twisted:
What have you got against monkeys (simian not the "other" ones)
 
#8
dui-lai said:
Cpl_ripper said:
Rincewind said:
We need this bunch of tw@'s out of parliment and get someone in with a brain and a spine.
Rincewind
And replace them with who exactly?

just a small point
With their record as of late, I thought a monkey from the Zoo would do just as good a job :twisted:
If a monkey will give me an extra £500 a year for having kids then lets have a whoop of baboons, Might get a grand then :wink:
 
#10
This is a lose-lose situation for the idiots at the top. Do "they" punish Gen McColl (perhaps replacing him at a crucial time in a volatile theatre) and accept the inevitable flak? Or do "they" do nothing, perhaps opening the floodgates?

Hats off to someone senior with the b@lls to speak out!
 
#11
MrPVRd said:
This is a lose-lose situation for the idiots at the top. Do "they" punish Gen McColl (perhaps replacing him at a crucial time in a volatile theatre) and accept the inevitable flak? Or do "they" do nothing, perhaps opening the floodgates?

Hats off to someone senior with the b@lls to speak out!
I'll second that, not before time.

Off course the establishment will never be wrong, even the Goon show had more get up and go in them.
 
#12
[quote="polyglory
Off course the establishment will never be wrong, even the Goon show had more get up and go in them.[/quote]

We're in the Hoon show, so what are you complaining about? Apart from lack of body-armour, NBC kit, a decent rifle, radios that work, enough manpower to guarantee decent gaps between deployments.......just fill in the rest yourself.

On a serious note, General McColl qualifies his remarks quite heavily, obviously covering his back, but all power to him for speaking out anyway. What are they going to do to him? Send him to Afghanistan?
 
#13
hackle said:
General McColl confirmed that the British commander in the south of Iraq had requested a reinforcement battalion to help tackle the growing unrest in his sector.

But he claimed that while the number of British troops had not been increased, plans to reduce them by one battalion had been dropped, which he argued did amount to a reinforcement.
Absolutely bloody unbelievable!
Lets redefine maths laws shall we 4 + 1 = 4.........
 

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