» Thursday, July 16, 2009


Put that David Miliband had just told the House of Commons that all helicopters from NATO countries were available to anyone and if that meant that British troops had already been flying around in German helicopters, the PMS said that there was nothing new in what David Miliband had said today about helicopters in Afghanistan; we had operated a pooling system with NATO for some time as it was a combined allied operation. As we said yesterday, this reflected the strength of the allied combined operations in Afghanistan. Air Commodore Falla who had been talking in interviews this afternoon said exactly the same thing.

Asked if there had been any direct requests to Germany to use their helicopters, the PMS said that he could explain how the pool system operated; it was down to Commanders who operated the pool within a given region to look at operational requests for helicopters, and decide on the basis of operational need how those helicopters should be allocated between different units. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) would be able to give more detail but the point to remember was that it was an operation with a number of NATO countries operating particularly in Regional Command South, which was where the majority of British troops were. Therefore it was right for us to draw on all the assets available and the cooperation among NATO allies showed the strength of the operation.

Asked if that meant that Britain supplied more troops because other countries supplied more equipment, the PMS said no; it was not a straightforward equation. Different NATO allies provided different resources and that was the whole concept of the combined NATO operation in Afghanistan.

Asked why the Government refused to disclose the number of helicopters in Afghanistan on security grounds, the PMS said that the decision was taken by the Prime Minister on a recommendation from the MoD and we would not go into detail on why that decision was taken and what the MoD felt could be jeopardised if we were to talk about numbers. Air Commodore Falla had said today that the MoD did not talk about the number of helicopters they had operating in Afghanistan.

Asked if the decision was based on recommendations from the ground in Afghanistan, the PMS said it was a recommendation that came from the MoD.

Put that The Times had reported that there were twenty-three helicopters, the PMS said that we were not going to confirm any figure.

Put that it was odd to talk about a sixty per cent increase in the number of helicopters when the before and after figures were not available, the PMS said that that was not true; we had set out why we were not going to identify the precise number of helicopters that we had operating in Afghanistan. But we had also said that we would increase the number of helicopters and the number of flying hours (operational hours available to Commanders).

Asked if military leaders had asked the Government for two thousand more troops, the PMS said that the Prime Minister answered this question today; we were not going to go into the detail of those conversations but there were a number of options on the table and we took a decision to increase the number of troops to just over nine thousand ahead of the elections this year. We would keep that number under review on the basis of the situation on the ground and advice from Commanders.

original source.

Briefing took place at 16:45 | Search for related news

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