Sunday, October 15, 2006

UK Desperate for Helicopters in Afghanistan -- US Refuses to Help

The British are in dire need of helicopters for operations in Afhganistan according to a reports in the The Daily Telegraph, Scotland on Sunday (The Scotsman) and The Independent.

MoD forced to hire civilian helicopters in Afghanistan

Britain is so short of helicopters in Afghanistan that military chiefs are being forced to scour the world for civilian aircraft to support its troops after the US rejected a plea to help plug the shortfall.

'Disbelief' at Chinooks shortage

In what is believed to be an unprecedented military move in modern times, ministers are preparing to rent non-military helicopters from private companies and foreign countries to help transport troops into and around the dangerous Helmand province.

Britain forced to use private helicopters in Afghanistan

Military commanders in Afghanistan have for the last three months been privately demanding more helicopters to help defeat the Taliban and provide supplies to troops in remote villages.

This is having adverse consequences for the UK's efforts in the mountainous area of southern Afghanistan.

The Independent on Sunday can also reveal that reconnaissance and intelligence missions in Afghanistan are being affected by the lack of smaller and more flexible helicopters. But senior military officials said that when UK commanders asked for temporary deployment of US helicopters in Afghanistan, they were told there were none to spare.

Interestingly, there doesn't seem to be any problem with helicopters for Kuwait as the Kuwait News Agency in an article last week announced:
First deputy Prime Minister, Defense and Interior Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah announced on Saturday that Kuwait would receive new combat Apache helicopters by the end of the year.
He added that 16 combat Apache helicopters would be received by Kuwait at the end of this year, praising competence of these fighter helicopters in hitting their targets precisely in addition to adapting to the various weather conditions in Kuwait.

The requirements for helicopters extends further than just reconnaissance and intelligence missions:
The entire UK contribution to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan relies on eight ageing and over-worked Chinook troop-carriers - barely half the number commanders deem necessary for the task of moving their troops around.

A further 12 extra helicopters provide vital attack capability, but they are too small to manage the job of carrying large amounts of men and supplies around a hostile terrain.

Brigadier Ed Butler, outgoing commander of UK forces in the south of the country, said: "If we had more helicopters, we could generate a higher tempo, not just of offensive operations, but also to crack on with reconstruction and development."

The shortage is hurting the much needed reconstruction and development or Afghans will support the Taliban:
NATO fears Afghans may turn toward Taliban

NATO's top commander in Afghanistan warned yesterday that a majority of Afghans would probably switch their allegiance to resurgent Taliban militants if their lives show no visible improvements in the next six months.

General David Richards, a British officer who commands NATO's 32,000 troops in the country, said he would like to have about 2,500 additional troops to form a reserve battalion to help speed up reconstruction and development efforts

Sure sign of desperation:
The military was also “doing everything we can” to bring into service eight special forces Chinook helicopters that have never been flown after they were certified unusable following mechanical changes made by engineers.

Meanwhile, during this past week US Chinook Helicopters Complete Aid Deliveries to Remote Pakistan:
They landed on the edge of high mountains in spots that were sometimes less than 16 meters wide. But the pilots and crews of the United States Army Chinook helicopters were determined to airlift vital supplies to as many parts of Pakistan as they could before the severe Himalayan winter cuts off the remotest regions of the country.

The weeklong operation that ferried building materials to the Allai, Kaghan and Neelum valleys was completed October 12. Construction of strong shelters to withstand coming storms now can continue thanks to the cement, iron sheeting and steel bars brought by the Chinooks, dubbed “Angels of Mercy” because of the swift and effective aid they facilitated after the devastating October 8, 2005, earthquake in South Asia.

Blair seems to have mismanaged and abused the British military as badly as the Cheney Misadministration has the US military:
News of the MoD's emergency measures provoked fury among opposition politicians, who claimed the approach to the private sector was "the ultimate humiliation". Tory defence spokesman Gerald Howarth said: "What on earth have we come to when the government has so mismanaged our operations that they have to go out to the private sector to find helicopters to fly in-theatre operations?

"It beggars belief - but ministers cannot say they weren't warned. Ourselves and the military have consistently told them that they were likely to encounter such serious difficulties, but when they decided to do something about it, it was too late."


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