July 13, 2009
The Fight Continues In Afghanistan
Do we have sufficient resources in theatre for the Afghan surge?
KABUL, July 12 (Reuters) - A roadside bomb killed two U.S. Marines in southern Afghanistan, the U.S. military said on Sunday, the latest deaths in an escalation of violence that has put pressure on coalition leaders over their war strategy.
Thousands of U.S. Marines and hundreds of British soldiers have been fighting major new offensives in the past 10 days in Helmand province, a Taliban stronghold and Afghanistan's biggest producer of the opium that funds the insurgency.
The assault by U.S. Marines, Operation Strike of the Sword, is the first major operation under U.S. President Barack Obama's new regional strategy to defeat the Taliban and stabilise Afghanistan, which holds a presidential election on Aug. 20.
It was launched with insurgency violence at its highest since the Taliban's austere Islamist government was ousted in 2001 by U.S. and Afghan forces for failing to hand over al Qaeda leaders wanted over the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.
Violence has flared again throughout Afghanistan since the operation began on July 2, with attacks in traditional Taliban strongholds in the south and east as well as in relatively more peaceful areas in the north and west.
The Taliban backlash has put pressure on leaders in Washington and London, who say U.S. and other NATO-led troops have pushed back Taliban insurgents but that a lot of tough fighting remains to be done during the summer.
The British troops are feeling the effects of budgetcutbacks
The parents of soldiers killed in Afghanistan have accused the Government of starving British forces of urgently needed equipment. They joined politicians and former Armed Forces chiefs in demanding that ministers provide more money to pay for helicopters and armoured vehicles for troops fighting in Helmand.
...The deaths of the eight soldiers prompted other families to speak out in criticism of the Government's funding of the campaign.
Jane Ford, whose son Ben was killed in an explosion in southern Afghanistan two years ago, said: ''It is our sons who are suffering because of [ministers'] stingy attitude. It is their blood that is paying. If we are not careful the Government will just waste money on things that are not necessary – like giving the money to MPs for their luxury apartments. Why can't we have luxury bombs?"
Ian Sadler, the father of 21-year-old Jack Sadler, who died in Afghanistan in 2007 when his Snatch Land Rover went over a mine, said: "Our soldiers must have a lot better than the vehicles they are being given at the moment. A Land Rover or a high-mobility truck are just not suitable for travelling in a mined environment. We also need more helicopters."
Last week The Sunday Telegraph highlighted how the lives of British troops were being put at risk by delays to a new fleet of up to 50 Mastiff armoured patrol vehicles – designed to withstand the blast from the most powerful mines and roadside bombs.
The helicopter shortage is becoming a real problem
Shadow defence secretary Liam Fox will demand answers about what he says is a scandalous shortage of helicopters in Helmand, which has left British troops more vulnerable to roadside bombs.
He told the BBC: "If we have an inability to move our troops safely, or we only have the option of moving them on the ground, that does increase the risk to them."
Mr Fox claimed that at the beginning of recent operations "up to 10" of 12 Chinook helicopters used to transport 350 British soldiers had to be borrowed from US forces.
He said the problems stemmed from cuts to the budget covering helicopters at a time when Britain had been fighting in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Our troops, and our allies troops, need all the resources we can give them to get their job done.
Posted by Mr. Bingley at July 13, 2009 06:01 AM
I spent my summer annual training at Bridgeport, in a simulated Helmand Province. The helo problem is because of the altitude. Most helos just don't work very well that high up. Marine helos are generally underpowered, and even the CH-53 doesn't have anti-icing capability. We pretty much have to use Chinooks or be very weather limited and even then only take a four to six people in each CH-46.
I'd say that if you're relying on helos for anything besides medevacs, then you don't have enough people. My battalion in Iraq was spread way too thin. Afghanistan is even thinner by an order of magnitude. Wars are won by people, and we need a lot more.
Posted by: Skyler at July 13, 2009 07:19 AM