22 October, 2006

Field Marshal Inge on Afghanistan and Iraq

According to the Observer Field Marshal Sir Peter Inge, the former head of Britain's armed forces, has said that in Afghanistan and Iraq the British army lacks a clear strategy and is at risk of defeat. The Field Marshal's comments,

...reflect the growing dismay among senior military officers and civil servants involved in defence and foreign affairs, that in the critical areas of Afghanistan and Iraq Britain lacked clear foreign and defence policies separate from the US.

I don't believe we have a clear strategy in either Afghanistan or Iraq. I sense we've lost the ability to think strategically. Deep down inside me, I worry that the British army could risk operational failure if we're not careful in Afghanistan. We need to recognise the test that I think they could face there,' he told the debate held by Open Europe, an independent think tank campaigning for EU reform.

Inge added that Whitehall had surrendered its ability to think strategically and that despite the immense pressures on the army, defence received neither the research nor funding it required.

'I sense that Whitehall has lost the knack of putting together inter-departmental thinking about strategy. It talks about how we're going to do in Afghanistan, it doesn't really talk about strategy.'

He seems to me to be making the obvious points that the politicians have not properly thought through their long term political strategy and, moreover, the army might be at risk of defeat because of budget cuts, which have left them short of men and equipment. Highlighting such glaring policy failures "could risk operational failure" is not the same as arguing that such failure is inevitable, or even likely.

Given the recent misrepresentation of Brigadier Butler, by the Observer's equally anti-war stable-mate, the Guardian, we will have to wait and see if Sir Peter is being misrepresented.

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