James Forsyth

We need a bigger army

We need a bigger army
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Successful counter-insurgency requires an army to be able to clear an area of insurgents and hold it. Only then will the population believe that it is safe both to resume something approaching normal life and — crucially — to co-operate against the insurgents, offering intelligence on their whereabouts and the like. If you try and do counter-insurgency with too few troops, you end up just playing whack-a-mole with them as the US did in pre-surge Iraq.

The comments from Tim Radford, the commander of Task Force Helmand, that his force will be fully deployed holding an area of Helmand the size of the Isle of Wight and unable to take the offensive to the Taleban again without reinforcements is further proof that we need more boots on the ground in Afghanistan. It would be far easier to send more troops to Helmand if the army was bigger and therefore less stretched.

Expanding the size of the army is an essential step if Britain is serious about what will be a generation-long commitment to Afghanistan. But this will cost money, yet another reason why the defence budget should be increased. To those who ask how this should be paid for, I’d point out that the Department of Health’s budget is three times bigger than the Ministry of Defence’s. So merely shifting the pledge to deliver real-term, year-on-year budget increases to defence from health would lead to a significant increase in the military budget.

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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