Wednesday, 19 August 2009
Colonel Stuart Tootal
We are all quite aware of recent verbal attacks on the government in relationship to its policy on troops and equipment in Afghanistan, by former and serving military commanders.
Brig Ed Butler
Mr 21 out of 23 Bob Ainsworth having carried out weekend television jokes and radio broadcasts by trying to make cheap political gain over the tories has failed to stem the flow criticism.
Today Gen Richard Dannant launches another stream in the Telegraph.
I dont think Dannants comments will carry much weight but perhaps this mans might.
Colonel Stuart Tootal was O.C. 3 para.
He left the army a year ago under what can only be described at absolute disgust of the government treatment of UK Armed Forces.
His 1,200-strong battle group was the first to set boot in Helmand province in 2006 on a totally unrealistic “peace support mission”. They landed shortly after John Reid, then defence secretary, announced that “we would be perfectly happy to leave in three years and without firing one shot”.
During its six-month tour of duty, 3 Para fired more than 479,000 rounds and became embroiled in the fiercest fighting for a generation: 15 of Tootal’s group were killed in battle and 46 wounded.
Colonel Stuart Tootal said: "Soldiers are robust and losing comrades will hit hard, but it will also reinforce their determination. He went on, ministers are risking soldiers' lives by failing to provide the right resources and "a proper strategy and a justification" that the British public can understand. He criticised the PM saying, "Gordon Brown took a reassuring tone, saying there had been a 60% increase in the number of helicopters in Afghanistan and £6 billion had been set aside for future investment over the next 10 years". Tootal is sceptical, calling the provision “woefully inadequate”.
“The issue is not generally lack of air support, because support provided by the Americans is very good,” he says. “The key is lack of troop-carrying helicopters. It’s a major weakness. We had six helicopters, of which we were the majority users, and we were one battle group of 1,200 men in a total force of 3,500.
“You’ve now got nearly 9,000 troops in Helmand and while there’s been some increase, the Chinook fleet is only up by a few helicopters. A number of Sea Kings have been brought in but these are smaller and less able and Lynx can’t fly in the hottest part of the day and can only lift one or two individuals and a limited amount of equipment. So even though there has been — and will be — more helicopters, lift support for British troops in Helmand is still woefully inadequate.”
The issue has bite because the Taliban have adapted their tactics to take advantage of this weakness by killing with roadside bombs and improvised explosives: “It may be that the most recent casualties, from Operation Panther’s Claw, are not directly attributable to lack of helicopters but there are many, many troops who might have been alive today had we had enough helicopters.”
Tootal identified helicopters as a problem even before his troops left the UK. Having worked up a number of scenarios — raids on Taliban compounds and so on — he could see there would not be enough helicopter hours (ie, helicopters and/or crew to fly them) available to allow his teams to move as one force. “Every time someone turns round and says there isn’t an issue of helicopters, when clearly there is, how much credibility can the Government have?”
A damning final statement there I believe.
"Troops can't do everything from the air," he went on.
"But if they are using vehicles when a tactical situation dictates they should be using helicopters, they will be exposed to unnecessary risk and operations will lack vital flexibility."
Finally, he insisted: "The war in Afghanistan cannot be a half-hearted affair. It is a sad inevitability that there will be more losses.
"Our soldiers are doing a superb job. They accept risk but if they take risk due to shortages and the absence of a coherent and properly resourced strategy, the casualty rate will be higher and success will be elusive."
Post his resignation from the army after his tour of Helmand, he now has a new role as head of global security for a corporation. He may well wear a smart city suit but beneath his perfectly pressed shirt beats the heart of a soldier, dismayed at the continuing row over resources for our forces in Afghanistan and the lack of a clear objective.
He still gets e-mails from soldiers starting “Hiya Boss.
This story line is not going away........why can the government not see it???