FOREWORD - DEFENCE MANAGEMENT JOURNAL, Issue 46
Bob Ainsworth MP, Secretary of State for Defence
Over the coming months, the Ministry of Defence has two overwhelming priorities: first, the ongoing operations in Afghanistan; second, beginning the preparation for a new Strategic Defensive Review next year.
We are fighting in Afghanistan to protect our national security. We are operating alongside over 40 other nations confronting the Taliban to prevent Al Qaida, and the terrorism they bring, returning to Afghanistan.
In the current phase of operations, UK and other NATO armed forces have been helping to prepare the way for presidential elections by clearing the insurgency out of the main population areas so that local people can exercise their right to vote. We have been making significant progress, but the going has been tough and, sadly, lives have been lost. We are determined to hold what we have won. We have been working alongside the Afghan Security Forces in this operation. Their contribution to the 'hold' phase will be essential.
We are straining every sinew to ensure the troops have the equipment they need, spending over £3bn on new equipment for Afghanistan operations – with 1,200 new armoured vehicles and a 60% uplift in helicopter numbers. Commanders on the ground will always welcome more – and we are working flat out to get them more.
This is a NATO operation. We have increased our commitment as part of the surge to prepare for the elections – so have others. We have the manpower we need for the current operations. We will review our commitment after the Afghan elections, on the advice of our commanders and in discussion with our allies.
Just as we need to win the battles we are fighting now, we need to make sure we are prepared for the battles of the future. On 7th July, I announced the beginning of a process leading up to a Defence Review in the next parliament. The first step will be the preparation of a green paper for publication in early 2010 examining some of the key issues for defence, including: the changing nature of conflict; the lessons we have learned from recent operations; conflict prevention; and technological changes. In this, we will engage extensively with all stakeholders.
The Ministry of Defence relies heavily on the skill, determination and bravery of armed forces personnel to deliver operational objectives. We recognise that they will be key to the delivery of a Defence Review too. We will look closely at the requirements and aspirations of personnel as part of the green paper process.
Whatever the future holds, I have no doubt that our armed forces personnel will rise to the challenge – just as they are doing in Afghanistan. I will make sure that in Whitehall we match their determination and give them every bit of support they deserve.