Malloch Brown breaks ranks on helicopters - and then backs down

Helicopter numbers have become a big political issue
Helicopter numbers have become a big political issue

By staff

A senior minister has broken ranks with the government over the need for more helicopters in Afghanistan, but then promptly retracted the statement.

Lord Malloch Brown, the Foreign Office minister who is stepping down this week, said the latest offensive in the war zone had not been sufficiently explained to the British people.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph he said: "When you have these modern operations and insurgent strikes what you need, above all else, is mobility.

"We didn't do a good job of warning the British public that we and the Americans were going on the offensive in Helmand."

But he later issued a 'clarification' of the statement, indicating troops have all the equipment they need, and that he was simply arguing that the government should always be looking at ways to do more.

Gordon Brown defended the level of equipment available to British troops during his monthly press conference today, saying: "This is a challenging period. We are taking difficult decisions. But these are the right decision."

The government has insisted it is purchasing all equipment needed in the conflict zone, but statements from army chiefs, experts and now the government's own Foreign Office minister have threatened to overwhelm assurances from the prime minister.

Last week chief of the defence staff Sir Jock Stirrup said more helicopters were needed to prevent further casualties of the likes seen this month.

Chancellor Alistair Darling said the army was given everything it needed.

"The army has said this is what we want in terms of troops and equipment and we have provided that and financed it," he told the Tribune newspaper yesterday.


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