Friday 30 September 2011

Here's something you didn't read earlier

More than two months after it was published - on 17 July - the UK Defence Select Committee report on Operations in Afghanistan has still received almost no publicity.
This is worrying. The committee laboured for months, visiting Afghanistan and holding hearings at which just about every senior officer in the armed forces appeared - not to mention many other witnesses - and yet its conclusions have been greeted with near silence. No newspaper reports, no TV coverage, about the most expensive and extensive military campaign ever mounted by Britain.
The same was true of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee report on Afghanistan that appeared in August 2009 and received almost no coverage. (You can read my comments on it here.)
Is there something wrong with our parliamentary system? What is the point of these long, extended inquiries if they receive no publicity and no-one takes any notice? And what is wrong with the press? Why are they not holding our lawmakers to account? It's not as if these inquiries are about minor issues. Hundreds of soldiers have died and many hundreds more have been wounded. Here's some figures from the report that you may have missed:
"From the start of operations in Afghanistan in 2001 to 15 June 2011, 371 British military personnel were killed with a further 586 very seriously or seriously wounded. Over 5,000 troops were admitted to the field hospital of whom 1,712 were wounded in action and the remainder had a non battle injury or disease. Some 4,700 personnel were evacuated back to the UK by air."
In case you are interested, amongst other things, the report examines the thinking behind the decision to send British troops into Helmand in 2006, concluding overall that it was a bad idea. In particular the committee was very upset that the Ministry of Defence would not let it see Chiefs of Staff Committee minutes that discussed the deployment to Helmand. Ahh, now I'm beginning to understand....

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