Page last updated at 16:12 GMT, Friday, 27 January 2006

Unease over Afghan duty

UK troops in Afghanistan
UK troops are operating in areas run by warlords
A site popular with soldiers has highlighted some unease at the prospect of UK troops being deployed to Afghanistan later this year.

Members of the unofficial but popular Army Rumour Service website have been responding to the announcement an extra 3,300 British soldiers are being sent to help with Nato's International Security Assistance Force [Isaf] peace-keeping duties.

One user had a specific message for Defence Secretary John Reid.

"If I have to bull [polish] my boots and carry any mates off the back of a[n RAF] herc[ules] Mr Reid needs to know that I will hold him personally responsible," he writes.

"If it's me being carried then I will have left explicit instructions and half of my life insurance to someone who will avenge me."

Visiting some of the soldiers being sent to Afghanistan, at a training exercise in the UK on Friday, Mr Reid said their presence would allow aid workers to help opium growers develop alternative sources of income.

Wouldn't it be a damn sight easier and cheaper just to buy up the opium stocks?
Army Rumour Service member

But Army Rumour Service members remain unconvinced.

"Wouldn't it be a damn sight easier and cheaper just to buy up the opium stocks?" one contributor wonders.

While another asks: "How much of the heroin on the streets of Marseilles, Lyons and Paris ALSO originates in Afghanistan and are France going to participate in this NATO op[eration]?"

Mr Reid said it was hoped other countries - including Australia, New Zealand and the Netherlands would also send troops to strengthen the Isaf.

The deployment will cost 1bn over three years.

But another user tells Army Rumour Service that may not be enough.

After all this effort and support, there is just one, (yes ONE), 'boots-on-the-ground' battle group actually going to 'provide a secure and stable environment' to a land area slightly larger than Wales!
Army Rumour Service member

"I hope someone has carefully planned the expenditure of this money and built in sufficient contingency for all eventualities - unlike other recent op[eration]s.

"A lot of people have known about this for sometime, I would therefore look dimly on any excuses given should it all go wrong."

The extra 3,300 troops, who will go mainly to the country's volatile Helmand area, will add to the 1,100 already in Afghanistan and 1,950 announced earlier.

The initial deployment will be 1,000 troops to the Headquarters Group of the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps, with the main deployment of 3,300 heading to the south, including a Provincial Construction team.

But for some critics the figures do not add up.

"How is the RAF going to transport and sustain such a large force at such a distance?" one asks the Army Rumour Service.

Map of Afghanistan
Kabul as we all know has absolutely no control over the area, which in itself raises the possibility of good old border conflicts with Pakistan
Army Rumour Service member

Another writes: "After all this effort and support, there is just one, (yes ONE), 'boots-on-the-ground' battle group actually going to 'provide a secure and stable environment' to a land area slightly larger than Wales!

OK, it's a pretty powerful BG [battle group], and maybe some others will join our party - but no mention yet who..."

Other are worried about the Army becoming over-stretched.

One Army Rumour Service user writes: "The [A]rmy are so short now. Are the TA going to do ceremonial duties?"

Mr Reid said the additional support would help prevent Afghanistan from "falling back into the clutches of the Taleban".

But some contributors are concerned about the possibility of any conflict escalating.

"Kabul as we all know has absolutely no control over the area, which in itself raises the possibility of good old border conflicts with Pakistan," one tells Army Rumour Service.



SEE ALSO
Reid visits Afghan-bound troops
27 Jan 06 |  UK Politics
Afghan troop levels to hit 5,700
26 Jan 06 |  UK Politics
Losing the war on Afghan drugs
04 Dec 05 |  South Asia
UK troops face new Afghan challenge
30 Nov 05 |  South Asia

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