British forces in Afghanistan could "learn lessons" on how to properly equip troops on the front line, Canada's defence minister said yesterday.
British forces in Afghanistan (Burning Snatch Land Rover)
By Thomas Harding, Defence Correspondent 9:30PM GMT 19 Feb 2009
Since the deployment of troops to Helmand in 2006 there has been much criticism of the shortage of helicopters and poorly protected or ill-suited equipment used by the British.
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Peter MacKay, Canada's Minister of National Defence, said when asked about British equipment issues that there were "always lessons you can learn from your neighbours". "Canada and Britain are very close and honest with each other good or bad. We have as much to learn as we have to offer," he said. But he added that it was a "fundamental obligation" of a government not to "leave people exposed". The British have lost 37 soldiers through the continued use of the flimsy Snatch Land Rover in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Snatch Land Rover
The Canadians have suffered the highest fatality rate among all nations in Afghanistan with 108 dead from a force of 2,800. Britain has suffered 145 dead from a mission of 8,300 troops. Mr MacKay said it was "not enough to talk about these things" and that the government had to "give them the tools to do the job". He added that more than £275 billion would be spent on the Canadian military over the next two decades. While the first Canadian soldiers arrived in Afghanistan in "forest green" uniforms unsuitable for the environment in 2001, the turnaround in revamping the force has been an example on how to properly equip an army. Mine resistant vehicles and mine clearance equipment were quickly bought that have saved countless lives. They have been followed by Leopard 2 main battle tanks, new 155mm artillery pieces and advanced unmanned drones.
Leopard 2 AM6
By comparison Britain's Challenger 2 tanks remain parked in Iraq, until recently the 105mm gun was the only form of artillery and Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles were only introduced last year. "We did not have Leopard tanks but we went out and bought them," the minister said. Because the military had rapidly rearmed it was now fully recruited with young Canadians wanting to join up. By comparison the Armed Forces in this country are 5,000 men short. The worrying shortfall of helicopters in Helmand - that means more soldiers are risked on road movements - is even more apparent when compared to the recent introduction of six Canadian Chinooks that service a force 5,500 fewer than the British who have just eight Chinooks.
Canada has also received wide recognition for its repatriation ceremonies. The Highway of Heroes from the airport to Toronto is lined with emergency services and the public every time a dead soldier is returned. "Canadians turn out and show support, appreciation and respect for the sacrifice of the soldiers and their families," Mr MacKay said. Sacrifice Medals have also been introduced to be given to families of the dead or those wounded in action.
Following President Barack Obama's announcement yesterday of 17,000 extra American troops for Afghanistan, Gordon Brown is expected to make known soon how much of an extra contribution Britain will make especially around the time of the Afghan presidential election in late August. "I have heard murmurings that other countries such as UK are contemplating troops for the election," Mr MacKay said. With criticism of other Nato nations such as Germany and Italy failing to contribute enough combat troops the issue is likely to be brought up at the meeting of Nato defence ministers in Poland today (thurs).
Mr MacKay said: "There's no way getting around it. It's combat troops that are needed right now particularly in the south and that's going to take a tremendous amount of effort and sacrifice. I don't think it's fair to continually go to the same well."
The British have followed many of the Canadian examples and have invested quite heavily in protection for their forces. In October 2008, John Hutton announced moves to acquire some 700 new armoured vehicles in a package worth £700 million, of which £350 million will pay for around 400 brand new armoured support trucks.
Defence Secretary John Hutton said:
"Our new breeds, WOLFHOUND, HUSKY and COYOTE will give the troops in Afghanistan the additional bite they need in the fight against the enemy. They do a formidable job and deserve nothing but the best.
"I look forward to the vehicles being on contract and arriving in the new-year."
It looks like that the British forces are well on their way of cleaning up the mistakes of the past and finally giving the front line troops the equipment they need.
April 22, 2009 A fleet of nearly 200 new armoured vehicles has been ordered by the British Ministry of Defence to support frontline troops on operations, it was announced today. The Coyote Tactical Support Vehicle (TSV (Light)) is based on a 6x6 derivative of the Jackal. It will support our go-anywhere, high-mobility Jackals across the harsh terrain in Afghanistan.
Wolfhound during testing
Wolfhound TSV (Heavy) - Based on Cougar 6x6 flatbed
Husky TSV (Medium) based on the International MXT-MVA made by Navistar