Treasury cap- British Army could only fight Taliban.......

the_boy_syrup

LE
Book Reviewer
#1
From the Mail

'Treasury-imposed cap' meant British Army could only afford to fight Taliban once a month

Ministers sent British troops into southern Afghanistan with such tough spending limits that they were only allowed enough manpower to fight one battle a month, senior commanders revealed today.

Brigadier Ed Butler, the highly-respected officer who led UK forces into Helmand Province in the summer of 2006, told MPs how a 'Treasury-imposed cap' left him with just 3,350 personnel to confront the Taliban.

That was only enough fighting power for 'one significant operation a month' - and not enough to cope with extra battles or unexpected strains, he told the Commons Defence Select Committee.

In the event his forces were besieged by hordes of Taliban gunmen, fighting for weeks at a time in what was later described as the toughest campaign the Army had seen since the Korean War half a century ago.

The public comments from the highly-decorated former head of the SAS are a severe embarrassment for the Government, as at the time ministers shrugged off accusations that they had put British soldiers' lives at risk by sending them to war with too little manpower and equipment.

Former Defence Secretary John Reid famously declared in 2006 he hoped UK troops would spend three years helping reconstruct southern Afghanistan 'without firing a shot'.

But by the end of that bloody summer 41 British servicemen were dead, and Tony Blair sought to make amends by publicly promising Britain's generals 'whatever package they want' to continue the war.

Giving evidence to MPs Brigadier Butler made clear who was responsible, revealing that the Treasury - then run by Gordon Brown - had imposed a spending cap of £1.3billion over three years, and limited his force to 3,350.

Brigadier Butler said: 'That was a Treasury-imposed cap on the number of men we could deploy with.
'Our assessment and doctrine said that if we had a steady state, with only routine business and only one significant operation a month, those forces could just about hold the ring in Helmand Province itself.
Blame: Brigadier Butler told how Gordon Brown imposed a spending cap, limiting the Army in Afghanistan

'But they would not stand any stresses - any extra engagements with the enemy.'
In the event, the Paras and other soldiers from 16 Air Assault Brigade found themselves besieged in camps across northern Helmand, fighting almost constantly for days or weeks at a time and critically short of helicopters to bring in ammunition and food.

Brigadier Butler, who was widely tipped as a future head of the Army until he quit last year, said a stream of ministers visited him in Helmand that summer - from the MOD, the Foreign Office, and Department for International Development - but none from the Treasury.

Troop shortages left him facing serious dilemmas, he told MPs.

'Do you send out a company of soldiers to defuse an IED [bomb] that is threatening to blow people up?

'Or do you provide a screen of troops for a DfID team to go out and talk to locals about a reconstruction project?

'That's the frustration. You can't do both without the resources.'

Three years on Britain now has almost 9,000 troops in Helmand but is still struggling to defeat the Taliban, and more than 20,000 extra American troops are due to arrive shortly.

Brigadier Butler also highlighted the shortage of UK helicopters, pointing out that the Taliban bombs had largely forced British troops to stop travelling by road - just as the IRA did in Northern Ireland.

But whereas 70 helicopters were available to support between 10,000 and 15,000 troops in Ulster during the Troubles, at one point he had only eight Chinooks available in Afghanistan in 2006.

He told MPs: 'You can do the maths in Helmand.'

Discussing Britain's efforts to combine military force with development and aid projects in Afghanistan, Brigadier Butler said: 'We failed to deliver from the word go because we were not prepared on all fronts to deliver things simultaneously.'

He urged the Government to give a far greater long-term financial commitment to rebuilding Afghanistan, saying: 'If you want to get into this process then go deep, go long - or go home.'

Shadow Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox said: 'The honesty and bravery of our fighting forces stands in stark contrast to the weasel words and dishonesty of their political masters.

'All of this results from a decade of neglect of our Armed Forces, and their families, by the Labour Government - because Gordon Brown, as Chancellor, was never willing to fully fund Tony Blair’s wars.'
 
#2
Good article, let down as always by the political posturing at the end by, in this case, Liam Fox.

Brown hasn't helped, but the root cause of many of our losses can be traced back to equally savage Tory cuts.
 
#3
bakersfield said:
Good article, let down as always by the political posturing at the end by, in this case, Liam Fox.

Brown hasn't helped, but the root cause of many of our losses can be traced back to equally savage Tory cuts.
Dr Fox in my opinion made a valid point.

Of course! I am so slow! It was, is, all the fault of Mrs Thatcher and eighteen years of Tory misrule.

I thought, wrongly, that it was the third rate adventurer Bliar who sent troops into Iraq and into Afghanistan - I really must keep up.
 
#4
Yeah, thats right, its all down to Options for Change happening 13 years before we went into Helmand and its still all Options for Changes fault 3 years after, because the current government is still somehow bound by things that happened 4 years before it came to power. Nothing to do with not having had an SDR in 11 years or anything like that...
 
#5
Yes, this idea that politicians can order you to 'reach the moon, but don't spend any money' was certainly ongoing under the Tories, and sadly probably will be again. I seem to recall being told in the 1980s that "you can have anything you want, as long as it is rifle ammunition". The impression I get now is that even that is a luxury item that requires Prime Ministerial approval. It is still a surprise to learn how bad the situation has become. Are the Americans operating under the same constraints? Unfortunately I can offer nothing more than my best wishes to the service men and women who have to put up with this dreadful situation. It must be very frustrating to see opportunities to hit the enemy or help the local community disappear because of Treasury constraints. Good luck to them out there, I hope they all come back safely.
 
#6
bakersfield said:
Brown hasn't helped, but the root cause of many of our losses can be traced back to equally savage Tory cuts.
Go on then, explain to me how the Tories made a mess of the deployment of troops to Afghanistan?
 
#7
Holdfast said:
bakersfield said:
Brown hasn't helped, but the root cause of many of our losses can be traced back to equally savage Tory cuts.
Go on then, explain to me how the Tories made a mess of the deployment of troops to Afghanistan?
Yes please, I would love to know how that astute observation was made perhaps we can also blame Gordons insanity on a Tory nanny who bounced him on the head as a child. Come on Discuss :D
 
#8
bakersfield said:
Good article, let down as always by the political posturing at the end by, in this case, Liam Fox.

Brown hasn't helped, but the root cause of many of our losses can be traced back to equally savage Tory cuts.
The Tory cuts were a badly thought out reaction to the end of the cold war. If you are going to commit British Troops to war on two fronts then the very least you can do is fund them to an extent whereby they will be as safe as can reasonably expected. That means properly funded kit specific to the task at hand. Labour have had twelve years in which they could have initiated a programme of upscaling and innovation; they chose to do absolutely nothing and we still don't have a cohesive policy on future operations and commitments.
 
#9
Or we could turn around and say that "HM Treasury was asked how much it could afford to support UK troops in the field and they said 3500 troops over 3 years".

Its not a question of just sending troops in willy nilly, it costs an absolute fortune to deploy and sustain troops to both HERRICK and TELIC and there is a finite amount of money in the reserve. Now we can all agree that Defence needs more money, but if the reserve only has a certain amount in it, we're fairly screwed if we need more.

I read the article as an attempt to blame the Treasury for the political failure to provide resourcing to Defence.
 
#10
jim30 said:
Or we could turn around and say that "HM Treasury was asked how much it could afford to support UK troops in the field and they said 3500 troops over 3 years".

Its not a question of just sending troops in willy nilly, it costs an absolute fortune to deploy and sustain troops to both HERRICK and TELIC and there is a finite amount of money in the reserve. Now we can all agree that Defence needs more money, but if the reserve only has a certain amount in it, we're fairly screwed if we need more.

I read the article as an attempt to blame the Treasury for the political failure to provide resourcing to Defence.
Or we could perhaps say the Treasury was informed of the costs of deploying a force of sufficient mass to carry out all tasks for which it was directed to undertake, realised that there was insufficient resource in the MoD till to enable this, and then shied away from the decision to switch resource from other areas of public spending on the basis that this operation was not seen to have sufficient priority.

PS. We are all aware that troops are not deployed 'willy-nilly' - just ask the Comds who have to endure countless iterations and revisions of the FET.

PPS. Good on Brig Ed. Great comd and great bloke.
 
#11
Can I ask what party would give the proper funding to the forces? The world must be laughing at us, 8 choppers & 1 op per month, so much for Great Britain.
 
#12
The cost of Ops is funded from the Reserve and not the MOD budget - in other words we don't actually pay anything for Ops beyond our normal running costs that we'd always incur. HMT picks up the cost of military Operations through the wider reserves, and there is only a finite amount of money in there.

This article is basically saying that HMT told us how much they had to support the Operation and they didnt' have anymore to spare. If there is no money to go and support Ops then that is a decision which rests at Cabinet level when agreeing spending plans, and not at the doors of the Treasury.
 
#13
jim30 said:
The cost of Ops is funded from the Reserve and not the MOD budget - in other words we don't actually pay anything for Ops beyond our normal running costs that we'd always incur. HMT picks up the cost of military Operations through the wider reserves, and there is only a finite amount of money in there.

This article is basically saying that HMT told us how much they had to support the Operation and they didnt' have anymore to spare. If there is no money to go and support Ops then that is a decision which rests at Cabinet level when agreeing spending plans, and not at the doors of the Treasury.
Treasury=Cabinet=PM. You couldn't get a fag paper between them - certainly not since 1997.

Incidentally - it matters not a jot how ops are funded. It all forms part of the same overall national pot - it's how this pot is allocated, reallocated and re-prioritised that matters.
 
#14
It wasn't the Army that decided to deploy to Afghanistan or Iraq. If there wasn't enough money to fund operations fully then the decision should have been made either not deploy or to deploy a small support force which was affordable. Whichever way you look at it, it is HMG (of which HMT is but a part) who made the decision to deploy underfunded, under equipped and under supported troops.
 
#15
bakersfield said:
Good article, let down as always by the political posturing at the end by, in this case, Liam Fox.

Brown hasn't helped, but the root cause of many of our losses can be traced back to equally savage Tory cuts.
Which New Labour have had 12 years to reverse!
 

FORMER_FYRDMAN

LE
Book Reviewer
#16
jim30 said:
The cost of Ops is funded from the Reserve and not the MOD budget - in other words we don't actually pay anything for Ops beyond our normal running costs that we'd always incur. HMT picks up the cost of military Operations through the wider reserves, and there is only a finite amount of money in there.

This article is basically saying that HMT told us how much they had to support the Operation and they didnt' have anymore to spare. If there is no money to go and support Ops then that is a decision which rests at Cabinet level when agreeing spending plans, and not at the doors of the Treasury.
Jim as someone who works in Government you must be aware of the Treasury's behaviour since 1997. If the money was limited then, as other posters have stated, that's the way HMT/Gordon wanted it to be and the Cabinet would have been the hapless bystanders they've been since 1997 when it comes to spending.

HMT is Gordon's power lever of choice and has been since he took high office, which is why he wanted Darling out and Balls in. The bottom line is that Gordon has never had any difficulty in finding funding for Labour's pet projects - Northern Rock being a prime example, and Tony's military adventures don't feature on that list, whatever the cost to the troops on the ground.

If what you're saying is that the funding decision wasn't taken by a civil servant, I agree but, if you're saying that HMT officials fought tooth and nail to do the right thing and didn't use any pressure on MOD to accept what they offered, despite being aware of the operational and moral implications of under-funding, then I don't.
 

BuggerAll

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
#17
How many Infantry Battalions did we have in 2001 when Ops commenced in AFG? How many do we have now? I know that under ZaNU Labour we are supposed to believe re-balancing (reducing)) the number of battalions is enhancing our combat effectiveness but somehow I can't quite get my head around the concept.

This is not a criticism of the Brig I understand the things that constrained him - but it is a pity he was unable to speak out whilst he was in post. I am sick of this Government (Brown) lying and claiming that the Generals/military support him knowing that those people are not allowed to comment. He recently said that military commanders think that Ainsworth is a brilliant MoD. Do they?
 
#18
I’m not saying that HMT isn’t guilty of bad behaviour towards MOD – and other departments, but I was trying to point the finger of blame more accurately at political masters. Whitehall depts tend to be extremely good for the most at following their superiors command intent – we do it in MOD all the time by following the chain of command. HMT is no different in supporting the command intent, (political) and in this case command intent could be interpreted as having been to provide the minimal amount of funding possible to wider defence while supporting pet projects. Naturally HMT would follow their CoC in the same way that we do.

The upshot has been that while we’ve been able to call on the reserve, there wasn’t as much there as could have been, as receipts were spent on pet projects and not saved for a ‘rainy day’.

What has this meant for us? Well its an interesting debate to have about balancing off the needs of the generals, the politicians and the nations bank balance. I’d put it forward that we as a department have a tendency to overreach both materially and fiscally, but this problem is compounded by the unwillingness of politicians to support their hard words and lofty rhetoric with hard cash. As for HMT, well, I do actually have some sympathy for their position – they’re trying to keep the nation on an even fiscal keel, despite the best efforts of all and sundry. In my experiences of dealing with them, they are genuinely supportive to help get lifesaving equipment into service through UORS, but they do get frustrated that we as a department show a reluctance at the highest levels to face up to operational realities and fund our current ops equipment priorities to the correct level. Instead our grand campaign plan for all ops appears to be that we rely on HMT to bail us out of the current mess, while steadfastly refusing to take some grown up measures to stop buying shiny toys in order to support contingency operations.
 
#19
Bakersfield;
'Famous name' regiments to go in defence shake-up
http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2004/jul/20/military.whitehall

Jim 30
How much does it cost to send a unit to Afghan? Surely the mod /treasury can put that on the Barclay card bill along with the national debt that my son will be paying off until he retires? The Pakistani army is doing its bit, the Yanks are doing more than their bit even the French are now stepping up to the mark.We are having a whip round for our airfares and taking a packed lunch.
We are out of Iraq , you have record recruiting levels surely you can afford to put a few thousand extra troops.
And Gordon Brown thinks its just the last few weeks we wanted the incompetent, tight-fisted, arrogant, misogynist, unelected, miserable control freak out of office
 
#20
jim30 said:
I’d put it forward that we as a department have a tendency to overreach both materially and fiscally, but this problem is compounded by the unwillingness of politicians to support their hard words and lofty rhetoric with hard cash.
No, no and no again. Politicians set the objectives, and the only overreach is that of trying to meet these objectives with insufficient resource.
 

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