07 October, 2006

Misleading BBC report on Afghanistan:

Time was when BBC News could be relied upon to be impartial and to keep you up to date with the latest events. How things have changed.

A month after Max Hastings first raised the problem in the Spectator and a nearly week after Brigadier Ed Butler talked about the problem to the Daily Telegraph, the BBC has finally reported that the army needs more helicopters in Afghanistan.

Brigadier Ed Butler requested more Chinook helicopters in response to a promise by Prime Minister Tony Blair of whatever extra resources were needed.
Somewhat misleadingly, the BBC report gives the impression that Brigadier Butler is only making the request in response to Blair's speech earlier today. An impression reinforced by a quote from an unnamed source:
The Ministry of Defence said it was not aware of a specific request for extra helicopters from Brig Butler. "The commanders have what they need to do the mission, Obviously, if they had more they could do more with it. That is what Brig Butler has always said," am[sic] MoD spokesman said.
A Foreign Office junior minister duly plays his part in the deception saying,
that while British commanders felt they had all of the equipment they needed,they would like more support from some other Nato countries which were not "punching their weight".
Garbage and more garbage. Brigadier Butler's views were clearly expressed his interview in the Telegraph and they are not those ascribed to him by the MoD. Hell, he was 36 hours away from pulling troops out of a battle for a "key base" because of a lack of helicopters. Moreover, as Max Hastings wrote back in early September,
The only reason the army is not crying from the rooftops for more helicopters in Afghanistan — there is no point in sending more men unless there are means to deploy them — is that the resources do not exist. Thus far, the government has not attempted the only possible measure that would help on the margin — leasing more heavy-lift helicopters on the open market...
Only an ambivalent caveat from the BBC man in Kabul is entered:
Alistair Leithead, says the question of extra helicopters has been raised again and again - with other Nato units also wanting more.
More garbage. What other NATO units want is irrelevant to the question, they were not engaged in hand-to-hand comabat with the Taliban in Helmand, which is where the lack of Chinooks was most acutely felt by the combat troops.

The Ministry of Defence has known of the problem for some time and the Prime minister and his Defence secretary should have known also. Any responsible news agency would be highlighting these failings instead of white-washing this stain on the government's record. Our troops deserve better.

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