Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Overstretched, over there

Of all the British newspapers, the Glasgow Herald is reporting in greatest detail on Afghanistan at the moment. The reason is that it is a unit based in Scotland, 45 Commando Royal Marines, which is serving in the lawless Helmand province in southern Afghanistan at present.

The Herald reports that the US Defence Secretary Robert Gates asked Tony Blair on Sunday for Britain to send 1,000 more troops to Afghanistan. With the British Army as stretched as it is, such an increase could only come if troops were withdrawn from Iraq, which in fact the Daily Telegraph reported they would be the other day. The development follows the deaths of two British soldiers serving in the region in the last three days.

A unnamed source quoted in the Herald report says that the British contingent needs twice the number of helicopters and three more battalions of troops. The shortage of air transport was brought home in Sean Langan's recent documentary for Channel Four's Dispatches, on operations in the south of the province, where Afghan casualties could not be evacuated because a helicopter had already been diverted to pick up British wounded elsewhere.

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