UK seeks to free troops up for Agfhanistan

PTP posted a similar themed topic yesterday, and this approaches the same issue from the other way around - where are all these guys headed?

From The Grauniad:

UK seeks to free troops for Afghanistan

Richard Norton-Taylor
Wednesday July 6, 2005
The Guardian

Military commanders are making plans for a major cutback in the number of British forces in Iraq as they prepare to take over responsibility for security in Afghanistan which, they say, the US wants to leave as soon as possible.

The plans signal what will be the most important shift in British military operations since the invasion of Iraq. Senior commanders are making remarkably optimistic noises about progress in building up Iraqi security forces in the south-eastern provinces under British control.

They say the number of British troops in Iraq could be cut to fewer than 2,000 over the next 12 to 18 months. There are some 9,000 there now. That would make it much easier for Britain to meet its commitment to take over the lead Nato role in Afghanistan from next May.

Though military officials say Britain could maintain a significant presence in Iraq as well as deploying 4,000 troops in Afghanistan, it would place a serious burden on the army. It is already under such pressure that training is being affected.

There is also a financial burden: British military operations in Iraq cost about £1bn a year. The deployment in Afghanistan is estimated to cost half of that over three years.

Air Chief Marshall Sir Jock Stirrup, the head of the RAF who becomes chief of the defence staff next spring, refers - in the context of handing over to Iraqi forces - to "different timetables for different provinces".

He told journalists last week that Britain "will be involved in Iraq for quite a long time to come", because of the importance of the country in what he calls economic and geostrategic terms. But that, he suggests, is more in the context of bilateral relations, not as part of an occupying force.

Major General Jonathan Riley, who just left his post as commander of British forces in south-eastern Iraq, has few doubts. "

We are going to hand over two provinces, Maysan and al-Muthanna, this year and another two next year," he says in the latest Soldier magazine.

He and other military officers compare the situation in parts of Iraq favourably to parts of Northern Ireland in the 1980s. "Iraq is not homogeneous, any more than Northern Ireland or any large city," said one defence official.

Amyas Godfrey, head of the UK armed forces programme at the Royal United Services Institute, says the role taken on by British forces since the war could be "wrapped up" by next May when they could hand over to the Iraqis.

British officials say the US no longer has an interest in Afghanistan, including the opium crop, 90% of which ends up as heroin on the streets of Europe and not America.
The story is here.

This whole issue is nothing new - it is the very essence of the Commitments game, but my concern is one of sustainability. How long are we going to be able to maintain our current level of deployments across the world, especially as it seems that the US are turning their back on the whole Afghan mission.
I fear that sustainability, beyond the next election, is not a consideration for politicians. They are totally unconcerned, so it would seem by their actions, with the effect on the personnel whom actually have to carry out these commitments. If they are actually concerned then they certainly are not showing it in any way, shape, or form. There is a distinct lack of long term planning beyond mouthing platitudes about "we stand by our promise to stay in Iraq/Afghanistan/<insert country here> as long as it takes".
Too many promises and limited resources. The politicians obviously can't see because they have their heads way up in Dubya's arse.

"British officials say the US no longer has an interest in Afghanistan, including the opium crop, 90% of which ends up as heroin on the streets of Europe and not America."

This is particularly annoying.
The simple fact is that Afghanistan only really has one export product - opium. The US has obviously realised that it can either (i) accept this and effectively become complicit in the heroin trade; (ii) try to surpress the heroin trade, causing misery and suffering to millions of poor Afghan farmers who have no other cash crop, feeding the insurgency and getting bogged down for years (see 'Soviet Union' for details); or (iii) (and this is the really clever option) hand over the whole mess to one or more poodle-minion client satellite states, so they can carry the can when the whole thing goes to ratsh1t.

The Talibs (and Afghans generally) don't really fight over winter, so by next spring, when the Brits take over, the US can plausibly say, "here you go, we've beaten the Talibs for you, if anything goes wrong now it's your fault, thanks!"
Will our US cousins maintain the massive aviation air supply to keep Ganistan running long after they have pulled out ?
UK can't do it, doubt very much that NATO can.
Britians tradition intrest in Ganistan was to keep out Rooshia from India and the ocean.
Surly Tone should now be asking India with its massive army to deploy troops and make their presence known on the world stage for they want to be a Permenant Security Council member, ah yes India giving to the world I like the thought of that.
The Aussie SAS have been asked to take up the fray in Afghanistan..they are considering it.. Also, the other Stans are under pressure from Russia and China to withdraw use of their space for US airbases in America's need for close-up runways for action in ...Ganistan and Iraq..

Bush says he's staying the course, though he, too, is getting flack from within over the debt that is mounting as a consequence, and China's economic expansion and military buildup is making a few heads turn....

shifting sands...
Any new troops will be out in Afghanistan conducting Poppy Eradication.................. Not a nice job believe me.

I wouldn't wish that job on anyone - Tony could call it 'OPERATION HOT 'N DANGEROUS' :)
The plot thickens:

British victims of roadside bomb named as minister confirms plans for gradual pull-out

Richard Norton-Taylor
Monday July 18, 2005
The Guardian

Three British soldiers killed by a roadside bomb in south-east Iraq were named yesterday as Second Lieutenant Richard Shearer, from Nuneaton, Warwickshire, and Privates Leon Spicer and Phillip Hewett, both from Tamworth, Staffordshire.

They died on Saturday in the town of Amara, the scene of fierce fighting between British troops and insurgents last year. Two other soldiers were injured and were being treated at Shaibah logistics base, near Basra.

The three dead soldiers were part of a three vehicle patrol and were travelling in an armoured Snatch Land Rover when the explosion went off, the Ministry of Defence said.

Lt Shearer, 26, the patrol commander, and Pte Spicer, also 26, were killed instantly. Pte Hewett, 21, the driver, died from his wounds at the scene while receiving first aid, an MoD spokesman said.

Lt Shearer, who served in the French Foreign Legion before joining the regiment a year ago, was described as a "bold" commander who was "no stranger to danger".

All three came from the 1st Battalion, Staffordshire Regiment, which is based at Tidworth in Wiltshire and had been deployed in the area as part of Task Force Maysan. The task force includes a squadron of Challenger 2 tanks from The King's Royal Hussars, soldiers from No 1 Company, Coldstream Guards and a company from the 1st Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Wales. It is based at Camp Abu Naji, just outside Amara, a mainly Shia town some 100 miles north of Basra with a population of about 300,000.

Two British soldiers were killed there in May and the region last year witnessed the longest sustained engagement by British soldiers since the Korean war.

It is a stronghold of the radical Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. However, responsibility for the bomb was claimed on a website by a group calling itself the Imam Hussein Brigade.

John Reid, the defence secretary, recently expressed in a memo to the cabinet the hope that Britain could hand over control of Maysan province to Iraqi security forces next year.

The memo also raised the possibility of cutting Britain's troop presence from the current 8,500 to 3,000 by the middle of next year.

Yesterday he told CNN that the scaling down of British forces could begin within the next 12 months.

"If we had an open ended presence there, and were never envisaging that the Iraqis could take control of their own country, we would be rightly criticised for long term imperialist ambitions. We have none," he said.

"What we have to envisage is a transitional hand over, over a period of time, so that the Iraqis themselves ... can gradually take control of their own security and counterterrorism," he said. "That is not going to be an event. That will be a process. I believe it is a process that could start, no more than that, over the next 12 months."

A spokesman for the MoD said security in Iraq was under "constant review" by the armed forces. "There is an investigation under way into the incident," he added. The army has developed devices designed to alert soldiers to the presence of bombs.

The deaths bring to 92 the total number of British personnel who have died in Iraq as a result of combat, accident or natural causes.

Of these, 53 have been killed in action, according to the MoD.
So it's more-or-less official - negotiations with other NATO countries concerning scaling for Afghanistan have failed and now we need to economise elsewhere 'within the next 12 months'. How strange...

Stand by for massive compression in tour gaps, even more reliance on the TA and Reserves (if that were possible), and the possibility that Iraq will flare up again, which will scupper us nicely! Anyone for LSSA? :D

The story is here.
There was a large story about this in the Mail on Sunday (10th july) which claimed to have seen official strategy papers from the MOD/SfD on possible courses of action re:Iraq. Most prominent was a paper on how we can reduce our commitment over the next year, leading to a reduction of som 7000 troops, and redeploying them (or others) to afghanistan.

There was also some really interesting bits in it about american policy towards their commitment to Iraq. It appears that Centcom and the pentagon want a sharpish redction in manpower over the next 18mnths. This plan has met with real opposition with the regional command in Iraq, who point out that any premature withdrawl would leave a vacuum leading to regional instabilty and thus creating a festering sore, which would innevitably bite america on it's ass in years to come.

I think W and tone want out long before the next American election, as they know fine well that Hillary Clinton would use the Iraq problem as a stick to beat W (or his replacement).
Yes elections I understand half the senate/congress cums up for election shortly, and detested as she is Hillary will cruciy the GOP over Iraq.
Resevists and the guard out as soon as possible leave the regulars to hold the 'fort'

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