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 Â£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 Blairâs wars.'