Posted by Andreas from dtm2-t8-2.mcbone.net (188.8.131.52) on Tuesday, April 29, 2003 at 5:35AM :
War is exhausted ....
April 29, 2003
Avoid war for two years, says defence chief
By Michael Evans, Defence Editor
BRITAIN’S Armed Forces should not pursue another war until at least 2005, the Government’s top military commander said yesterday.
Forces were overstretched and both troops and equipment needed time to recover from the Iraqi campaign, Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, who retires as Chief of the Defence Staff at the end of this week, said.
He said that British Forces could not engage in another war between now and the end of next year without “serious pain”, even if the Americans asked for help.
He also announced that the Ministry of Defence was conducting a major “lessons learnt” exercise, which might lead to some cuts in orders for equipment, including the huge £18 billion Eurofighter order.
The focus will be on “reshaping” the forces and the equipment bought for them to ensure they can engage in similar types of warfare in the future. Although fundamental restructuring has already taken place since the end of the Cold War, Admiral Boyce made clear he wanted further changes to try to match America’s high-tech military prowess.
He also said that he favours a memorial service this autumn to mark the achievements of the British troops in the war, rather than a victory parade.
The “blitzkrieg” against Iraq will send a message to other rogue states, he said, and he hoped that British forces would not be “marching off to war again in a couple of years”.
The admiral’s message came as Tony Blair made plain that there were no plans to extend military action to countries such as Syria and Iran, whose actions have been criticised by Washington.
Admiral Boyce said that the Forces were overstretched because of the campaign in Iraq, which had involved 45,000 British military personnel out of the total manpower of 210,000. Both troops and equipment needed time to recuperate.
He admitted that if the Northern Ireland peace process were resolved it could mean reducing troops in Ulster to 5,000 from 13,000. But he warned the Treasury not to regard this as a “peace dividend” and force manpower cuts. The soldiers from the Province would be needed to fill gaps elsewhere, he said.
Admiral Boyce said that the Armed Forces could not handle another “discretionary” war, a conflict waged “by choice”, if it were launched in 2004. Speaking to defence journalists as part of his farewell, Admiral Boyce said that if the United Kingdom were threatened, every man and woman in the Services would fight to defend the country.
However, a war in the style of the Iraqi campaign was not something that could be repeated again and again.
Did this mean Britain would not be ready to act with America if President Bush decided to pursue a military option in dealing with the other “rogue” nations in the so-called “axis of evil”? “I don’t think, if we were asked to do another largescale operation in 2004, that we could do it without serious pain. We need to draw breath,” Admiral Boyce said. “If it was to be something of the scale that we have done this time, it would have to be something that the Government is convinced is pretty important.”
The Iraq campaign had already had a “moderating” impact on Syria, he said. “North Korea is behaving in its own way, they are having a blink test with the Americans,” Admiral Boyce said. He added: “I hope that we might have a better world rather than marching off to war again in a couple of years.”
The Tories welcomed the admiral’s remarks. Bernard Jenkin, the Shadow Defence Secretary, said: “Once again, Sir Michael Boyce bluntly tells the truth about the sorry state of the British Armed Forces. The fact is that it is only our Armed Forces’ supreme professionalism that makes up for all the shortcomings in training, manpower and equipment.”
Sir Michael also indicated his personal view that a “victory parade” through the streets of London for the returned troops might not be appropriate. However, he did not rule it out and suggested that a parade could not be held until at least September. He questioned whether the Iraqi people might view a parade as “arrogant or patronising”. He said: “I’m all for honouring the troops with a memorial service. I’m neutral about a parade, but this is a different situation from the 1991 Gulf War and the Falklands in 1982.”
In emphasising the difficulties the Services were facing with manpower shortages, he said there was a risk some military personnel returning from Iraq might decide that “they have had their war and will leave the Services”. There could be a problem with retention, he said. After the 1991 Gulf War, several hundred troops are believed to have left the Services. Sir Michael said that he anticipated cutbacks in some “legacy weapons” — systems developed for the Cold War. He praised the role of tanks in the war in Iraq but he said it was clear that the Government’s commitment to ordering 232 Eurofighters would have to be re-examined. The full order would cost taxpayers £18 billion.
Admiral Boyce also gave warning to France, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg, which are holding a joint defence summit today in Brussels, not to take any action that would undermine Nato.He said: “We certainly don’t need duplicate structures. We don’t need to have things that cause friction between Nato members.”
Admiral Boyce acknowledged that during his 26 months in the top military post he had spoken his mind in public when he felt the need to. He said that he had “a good and friendly working relationship” with Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary.
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