The Daily Telegraph - Labour: UK troops could be in Afghanistan for years


Labour: UK troops could be in Afghanistan for years

British troops could be “embedded” with Afghan soldiers fighting insurgents for “years” after the official withdrawal in 2014, ministers are warned.

By Tim Ross, Political Correspondent 7:00AM GMT 17 Jan 2013

Labour will call on David Cameron to detail Britain’s exit strategy amid concerns that uncertainty over the future role of the Armed Forces in Afghanistan will undermine public support for the mission. In an article for, Jim Murphy, the Shadow Defence Secretary, warns that hard-earned military advances could be overturned without “more detail and candour” from the government. His intervention comes ahead of a debate in Westminster today on Britain’s role in supporting the development of a stable Afghan state once combat operations have ceased.

The Prime Minister has said that no troops will be left in the country in a “combat role” after 2014. However, ministers have refused to give further details of what will be expected of the Armed Forces after 2014, what equipment will be left behind, and how much the longer mission could cost.

In his article for the Telegraph website, Mr Murphy says the British deployment to Afghanistan, including mentors, advisers, force protection, and logistical support personnel, could be "significant". “UK Forces may still be embedded with Afghan Forces post-2014, continuing to put themselves in harm’s way,” Mr Murphy writes. “There is an impression that ‘non combat’ means ‘free of danger’, but in fact those who remain post-2014 will continue to be exposed to risk, and risk that has the potential to escalate as transition gathers pace. “Some uncertainty may be unavoidable at this stage, but we know that the UK will be making an active military contribution for a number of years. Ministers need to start being more frank about what this entails.”

Jim Murphy: ministers must spell out their Afghan plans

British forces could be committed to a risky role in Afghanistan for years, the Shadow Defence Secretary warns.

By Jim Murphy MP, Shadow Defence Secretary 7:00AM GMT 17 Jan 2013

As the world’s attention focuses on events in Mali, where Britain is rightly making a contribution to an international effort to tackle Islamic militancy, it is also necessary to reflect on Britain’s long-term military commitment to Afghanistan, a country that has hosted a conflict for over a decade.

The UK’s post 2014 effort in Afghanistan could be significant and lasting, and yet we hear little from the Government. In politics it can be the case that focus and energy are directed in inverse proportion to the importance of an issue. This seems true today about Afghanistan, and we need more detail and candour from Ministers to retain the public’s long-term trust and support.

After so many British fatalities and injuries military progress on the ground is significant but not irreversible. The pace of withdrawal, tackling insider attacks, building Afghan Forces and, most importantly, facilitating political reconciliation are amongst essential factors which demand progress but remain characterised by uncertainty.

What will the UK’s military role post 2014 be? The country has been told that UK personnel ‘will not be involved in a combat role’, but detail is lacking. UK Forces may still be embedded with Afghan Forces post 2014, continuing to put themselves in harm’s way. Our Forces will have the task of defending trainers at the Afghan officer training Academy or UK diplomatic and developmental teams. There is an impression that ‘non combat’ means ‘free of danger’, but in fact those who remain post-2014 will continue to be exposed to risk, and risk that has the potential to escalate as transition gathers pace. We must know who will be responsible for our residual Forces’ protection – more important in light of insider attacks – and their rules of engagement.

The size, structure and scope of the post 2014 Force are as yet undefined, but when you take in to account potential logistical support, trainers, mentors and force protection it could be significant. Some uncertainty may be unavoidable at this stage, but we know that the UK will be making an active military contribution for a number of years. Ministers need to start being more frank about what this entails.

With regard to military hardware beyond 2014, we support the Government’s efforts to extract and transfer equipment back home and its integration in to our domestic equipment programme. Armoured vehicles may be left behind, as they were in Iraq, but to date there are very few answers on the overall future contingent capability required by Afghan Forces, who will provide it and at what cost.

For example, Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) is one of the most important capabilities in warfare, especially in Afghanistan’s rugged terrain. Equally, Afghan Forces will require an airbridge to move around the country’s 250,000 square miles. Afghan Forces do not have the equipment or skills, however, to retain the tactical advantages NATO forces currently enjoy. The Defence Secretary has ruled out drone strikes, a potentially effective way of giving Afghan Forces strategic advantage while protecting UK personnel, but could there be fast jet or helicopter support provided by NATO or other coalitions of the capable?

We have had no word on what will be provided by the NATO or regional partners, but the UK role in such a contribution must be detailed, with implications for taxpayers and service personnel outlined.

Labour supports a commitment to Afghanistan which encompasses defence, development and diplomatic efforts to secure lasting stability, but we must take the country with us. Amidst all the talk of winning hearts and minds in Afghanistan there is another country where then public must also be continually persuaded – the UK. It may be an unusual thing for an Opposition politician to say, but the Government must now articulate its plans with conviction and clarity: it's in two countries’ interests for them to do so.
Shouldn't Labour have had an exit strategy before committing us to their war in the first place?



Book Reviewer
MOD probably wanted in so they had an NI type of role to 'stay sharp' like they wanted in iraq till it got too kinetic for them. If we want such a role then maybe we should up tempo in the training battalions we have dotted around the commonwealth or even have a full on garrison in the french style.


From a former Commander Task Force Helmand:

They went into Helmand with eyes shut and fingers crossed. That is how Major-General Andrew Mackay views Britain’s decision to send little more than 3,000 troops to southern Afghanistan four years ago. He is not alone. A succession of military and civilian officials, interviewed by The Times, indicated that warnings about under-resourcing and over-ambition were made lower down the chain of command during the planning process, but were not considered sufficient for a significant rethink by the top brass. The charge sheet includes institutional arrogance and an overkeeness to deploy to Helmand to compensate for a troubled campaign in Iraq… Military chiefs are also accused of giving the advice that politicians and civil servants wanted to hear, rather than the cold facts that might make the political imperative — on this occasion, leading the Nato charge into southern Afghanistan — less palatable… Nato, eager to justify its existence in the post-Cold War era, was keen to expand in Afghanistan so plans took shape to overhaul what was then a small Nato mission based in Kabul and head south… Brigadier Ed Butler, a former SAS commander whose battle group first deployed to southern Afghanistan, said he voiced concern that Britain had underestimated the threat in Helmand and was sending insufficient troops. He said his concerns fell on deaf ears. “Iraq was occupying 90 per cent of people’s time so no one had a free moment to really listen and rethink about what we were getting into,” he said… (The Times, 9 Jun 10)
That article, and much more, at - it's quite depressing though, don't read it if you're due to deploy.


Hearts and minds indeed.

Would they be the same hearts and minds that switch sides the minute our forces move on, and Terry Taliban tips up wafting a $20 note under their noses?
Y'see, that's the problem. We should never have let the dollar become the international currency...
Saddam Hussain, Col Gadaffi and Hugo Chavez have each tried to change it............ good luck if you're going to try.
It's always easier to get involved in these things than to extricate or get the f### out!


Not surpised to be fair, I've never bought into the concept of everything being hunky dory come the 1st of Jan 2015.
Kit can't really be brought out/back until that date, airframes need to remain for support, SF need to stay for covert ops etc.
My expectation is that Op Herrick will indeed finish on 31/12/14, and Op "Insertnamehere"( Peace stabilisation/support) will begin. Much like Banner into Helvetic, but remaining kinetic. Thus the government promise of ending combat ops is complete, because now they are peace keepers.

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