US warned Britain: you must send more troops to Afghanistan

US warned Britain: you must send more troops to Afghanistan
# 10 June 2010 04:11 (UTC +04:00)
Baku – APA. The US Government warned Britain that it was going into Helmand province in 2006 with too few troops, The Times can reveal, APA reports quoting “Times Online”.
Senior US officials warned that 3,300 soldiers was not sufficient to deal with the Taleban threat in what has become Afghanistan’s most dangerous province, but the advice was not heeded. When British Forces hit the ground they spread themselves too thinly and became pinned down under heavy attack — a tactic the Americans said “was like Custer’s last stand”.
The new detail comes as politicians call for an inquiry into the Helmand deployment. The two main contenders for the chairmanship of Parliament’s Defence Select Committee said Britain’s top brass had serious questions to answer, after The Times revealed that the mission went ahead despite warnings that the military was ill prepared.
Yesterday, in a deadly reminder of the way the war in the province has intensified, an American helicopter was shot down during an operation to evacuate two British soldiers wounded in Sangin. All four crew members were killed and a British serviceman died in a separate bomb blast, taking the number of UK fatalities to 294.
The deaths underline the reliance of British Forces in southern Afghanistan on their better-resourced American counterparts — 20,000 US Marines now work alongside 8,000 UK troops.
General David Petraeus, the senior US commander for Iraq and Afghanistan, made clear, however, that the war would be lost without British support. “The scale of the British contribution in Afghanistan is such that the coalition cannot succeed without you,” he said yesterday in London, where he met David Cameron.
The Times investigation has learnt that a senior member of the Bush Administration delivered a warning in early 2006 to Ministry of Defence officials preparing the plan for Helmand.
“I remember going to London and saying it would be good to have more troops, but I was told that Britain couldn’t add more until they were out of Iraq,” said Eric Edelman, the Under Secretary of Defence for Policy during George Bush’s last term in office.
Mr Edelman said that British officials told him that UK troop numbers would not be increased until France and other European powers commited further to the coalition in Afghanistan.
Patrick Mercer, a Conservative MP and former army officer, said of the Helmand failings: “I think there should be a very clear inquiry into why senior officers allowed this to happen.”
James Arbuthnot, also a Tory MP and previous chairman of the Defence Select Committee, said that if he was re-elected one of his tasks would be to investigate Afghanistan as part of a Strategic Defence Review. He said the Times investigation would form a “very important crux of such an inquiry”.