Interesting reading from today's Torygraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/02/12/nrift12.xml&sSheet=/news/2006/02/12/ixnewstop.html Army rift with No 10 over Afghanistan troops 'fiasco' By Sean Rayment, Defence Correspondent (Filed: 12/02/2006) The Government's "disastrous" decision to go to "war" on two fronts has opened a rift between Downing Street and the Ministry of Defence, the Sunday Telegraph has learnt. Defence chiefs are concerned that with a large number of British troops still active in Iraq, a task force being sent to Afghanistan might not be big enough to counter the threat posed by Gen Sir Mike Jackson queried whether the force is large enough al-Qaeda and Taliban forces. Yet commanders are being prevented from increasing troop numbers for the dangerous Afghanistan operation because of Tony Blair's insistence that no soldiers be withdrawn from Iraq until security improves dramatically. The crisis follows the shelving of a secret plan last year to withdraw 8,500 British troops from Iraq in preparation for the Afghanistan mission. Yesterday it emerged that a document assessing how soon troops could be brought home had been buried by civil servants. Former defence chiefs said last night that another conflict could leave the Army "dangerously overstretched", while the Tories claimed that the mission was rapidly becoming a "fiasco". Gen Sir Mike Jackson, the chief of the general staff, is understood to have written to Lt Gen David Richards, the British commander of the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps and the officer who will command the Nato force in Afghanistan, over whether the force Britain is sending is large enough to deal with the threat posed by insurgent forces. Defence sources have revealed that Gen Richards wants another infantry battle group, about 1,000 men, to join the task force responsible for controlling an area of 20,000 square miles, more than twice the size of Wales. It is understood that Gen Richards is concerned that he does not have enough artillery and ground attack aircraft, nor sufficient Chinook transport helicopters. Although Britain is contributing about 6,000 troops, later to be reduced to 3,500, to the 9,000-strong multinational force, only about 1,000 are combat troops, mainly Paratroopers from 16 Air Assault Brigade. It has also emerged that the 3rd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment is so under strength that it is being reinforced by troops from the Gurkhas, the Royal Irish Regiment, the Territorial Army and raw recruits straight out of training. There is also concern at whether troops will have the necessary rules of engagement to conduct offensive operations. Lord Guthrie, who is also Colonel Commandant of the Special Air Service, said: "The British Army is already dangerously overstretched and maintaining a force even of this size over the years will be difficult." Dr Liam Fox, the shadow defence secretary, said that a larger force was vital if the operation was not to become a fiasco. "We must have sufficient troop numbers to ensure a maximum chance of success for the mission with minimum risk for our troops," he said. Patrick Mercer, the shadow defence minister and a former infantry commanding officer, said: "History has shown that going to war on two fronts always courts disaster. This was never the Government's intent but the operational planning is becoming a fiasco because of a lack of troops and kit."