The head of the Army has warned that years of Government under-funding and overstretch have left troops feeling “devalued, angry and suffering from Iraq fatigue”, The Sunday Telegraph can reveal.
General Sir Richard Dannatt, the Chief of the General Staff, reveals in a top-level report that the present level of operations is “unsustainable”, the Army is “under-manned” and increasing numbers of troops are “disillusioned” with service life.
Gen Dannatt states that the “military covenant is clearly out of kilter”, and the chain of command needs to improve standards of pay, accommodation and medical care.
“We must strive to give individuals and units ample recuperation time between operations, but I do not underestimate how difficult this will be to achieve whilst under-manned and with less robust establishments than I would like.”
Distorted expenditure and failure to adjust to future threats are setting Britain’s armed forces on a “dangerously unsustainable course” at a time of growing turbulence and risk, ministers and military chiefs are warned today. “Stretched budgets remain tied up in big-ticket, high-profile, hardware while the ‘software’, the men and women who make up the armed forces, are overlooked,” says a report by the thinktank Demos.
Anthony Forster of Durham University, a co-author of the report, said: “Most expenditure is going on what the military calls ‘platform’ expenditure – very expensive aircraft carriers, for instance – when the priority should be human issues such as salaries, the chronic and appalling state of housing and support for families whose loved ones are overseas.”
Speaking before the report’s publication, he said: “If the priorities do not change then Iraq and Afghanistan may spell the end because generals, admirals and air marshals will be left with armed forces that are not fit for purpose.”
Colonel Jorge Mendonca, exonerated at a court martial over the abuse of Iraqi prisoners, today launches a devastating attack on Tony Blair and his government.
The decorated officer – who quit the Army in disgust at his treatment – accuses Mr Blair of sending UK troops to occupy Basra after the Iraq invasion “with exactly the sort of half-baked plan that gets soldiers killed”.
In an exclusive interview with the Daily Mail, he pours scorn on the former prime minister’s naivety in “sweeping in on America’s coat-tails” with no clear strategy or adequate funding for British forces to rebuild the war-torn south of Iraq.
THOUSANDS of British troops could still be in Afghanistan battling the Taleban in 20 years’ time, the future commander of UK forces in the country has said.
Brigadier Andrew Mackay, the head of the Scottish-based 52 Infantry Brigade, made the grim admission in an exclusive interview with The Scotsman before flying out to the war-torn Helmand province to assume command of more than 7,000 British soldiers.
Britain is spearheading NATO’s international security assistance force in Afghanistan, which aims to support the democratic Afghan government against a resurgent Taleban militia.
Originally conceived as a low-key reconstruction mission, British troops now find themselves regularly involved in bloody close-quarters fighting which some commanders say is the heaviest UK forces have faced since the Korean War.
The British mission in Afghanistan is formally due to end in 2009, but the ferocity of the resistance and the fragility of Afghan democracy mean UK forces could still be on the ground in large numbers in two decades’ time, Brig Mackay said.
Work to re-equip UK and US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan has helped profits to soar at defence group BAE Systems.
The UK’s largest defence firm, BAE made a pre-tax profit of £657m ($1.4bn), compared with £378m a year earlier.
BAE said the “high tempo” of UK and US military operations was increasing demand for land systems to support armed forces overseas.
BAE, which is facing an anti-corruption probe by US authorities, saw its half-year revenues rise by 10%.
The firm said its sales had benefited from its US operations, which achieved organic sales growth of 12% during the period.
Overall sales at BAE’s Land & Armaments business, which includes everything from tanks to munitions, rose 43%.
The head of the British Army has warned of a “generation of conflict” ahead for troops if they fail in Iraq or Afghanistan.
It comes as 25 people were killed in fierce clashes between police and gunmen in the Iraqi city of Kerbala which erupted during a major religious event attended by hundreds of thousands of Shi’ites.
In a private address made in June – that has just been released under the Freedom of Information Act – General Sir Richard Dannatt ordered his senior staff to prepare for such an eventuality.
Sir Richard said success was vital in Iraq and Afghanistan: “If we fail in either campaign, then I submit that in the face of that strident Islamist shadow, then tomorrow will be a very uncertain place.”
The military’s ability to fight global terrorism is being hampered by an exodus of officers from the Intelligence Corps, with 20 per cent departing in the past three years, defence sources have disclosed.
The use of a key weapon in fighting the Taliban and Iraqi insurgents, as well as Islamic terrorists, has been undermined by more than 100 officers being lured into highly paid private security jobs or becoming disillusioned at the way intelligence is handled, The Daily Telegraph has learnt.
Senior officers are also deeply concerned that the fall in numbers has resulted in people being posted to jobs above their rank, for which they do not have the experience or training.
“The corps now has to operate with people they would not normally fit into a post,” a defence source said. “Majors are being put into a lieutenant colonel’s job they are not up to right now.