BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in:  UK Politics
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Sunday, 19 May, 2002, 13:06 GMT 14:06 UK
Hoon defends Royal Marines' chief
British troops of 45 Commando heading to operation Condor
Around 25 British troops were struck down by the virus
Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon has "complete confidence" in the Royal Marines' commander in Afghanistan, despite reports that the minister faces mounting pressure to sack him.

Mr Hoon said Brigadier Roger Lane was doing a "tremendous job" and dismissed as "nonsense" reports that the mission had become a mess.

I have every confidence in Brigadier Lane

Geoff Hoon

Hailing the operation in south-eastern Afghanistan a "remarkable success", Mr Hoon defended the fact that the only shots had been fired by coalition forces, not British soldiers.

He also said the "winter vomiting" bug that has affected about 25 troops was now under control.

'Deserves support'

Speaking on BBC's Breakfast with Frost programme, Mr Hoon defended Brigadier Lane and the Marines' mission.

Senior Ministry of Defence officials have reportedly claimed that Brigadier Lane has lost the confidence of politicians and others, over disagreements between British and American commanders on tactics being used to hunt down al-Qaeda and Taleban fighters.

Brigadier Roger Lane, leading the Royal Marines in Afghanistan
Questions have been raised over Lane's tactics against al-Qaeda
One MoD official is reported by The Sunday Telegraph as saying: "Brig Lane is a man out of his depth and should be sacked. The whole operation is quickly becoming a farce."

But Mr Hoon dismissed this as "complete nonsense", saying: "I have every confidence in Brigadier Lane. He is doing a tremendous job in very difficult conditions and he deserves - and gets - our complete support."

British and US troops assisted Australian special forces who came under fire on Thursday in south-eastern Afghanistan from suspected Taleban and al-Qaeda fighters.

'Hyped up'

Mr Hoon said the mission was a "tremendous example" of the Royal Marines' skill in denying territory to the terrorists.

"It is right that we should use whatever force is appropriate to make sure that they can't provide a threat to both the people of Afghanistan and to the wider world."

Geoff Hoon, Defence Secretary
Geoff Hoon: Hunt for Bin Laden continues
He also denied claims by Labour and Conservative former defence ministers, that the involvement of British soldiers in Afghanistan had been "hyped up".

Labour's Doug Henderson said: "There certainly is a suspicion that ... there is a need to hype up the success of the operation when probably not a lot has been achieved."

While Tory Nicholas Soames accused the government of presenting the operations "as if they were about to embark on D-Day".

Troop reduction

But Mr Hoon told Frost: "I believe that we are setting out very clearly what has happened."

He said the hunt was still on for Osama Bin Laden, adding: "We are determined to find him."

The defence secretary said the 1,500 British troops involved in leading the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) would be reduced in numbers "substantially" once the mission was taken over, probably by Turkey.

He said the 1,700 Royal Marines on offensive missions in the region would not be there "indefinitely", but would move towards an advisory and training role.

"We expect there to be a reduction in our numbers involved in offensive operations, but that depends on what they find, on the level of activity and particularly from requests from allies."

British Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon
"I have every confidence in Brigadier Lane"
See also:

18 May 02 | South Asia
'Winter vomiting' hits UK troops
18 May 02 | South Asia
Troops scour Afghan mountains
18 May 02 | UK Politics
Hoon rejects Afghan 'hype' claim
22 Jan 02 | T-Z
Winter vomiting virus
23 Jan 02 | Health
The stomach bug outbreak
17 May 02 | UK Politics
Ministers accused of Afghan 'spin'
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more UK Politics stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK Politics stories