An investment of £300 million will see the defence rehabilitation services currently delivered at Headley Court move to a new purpose-built location at Stanford Hall, near Loughborough. The new facility will be 4 times the size of Headley Court and will improve and advance the cutting-edge treatments already available to injured members of the armed forces. Click here to read more. The picture is of a watercolour showing the north facade of the new Defence and National Rehabilitation Centre. [Picture: BSS Ltd]
Summary The BBC reports that ministers are set to acknowledge that Syria received some of the materials used in its chemical weapons programme from UK companies during the 1980s. | The Times reports that more than half-a-tonne of heroin has been seized in the past week amid warnings to police that organised crime gangs are intent on exploiting Afghanistan's record opium harvest. | Various papers report that government figures show that more than 260 Afghan civilians, many of whom worked as interpreters for the military, are awaiting visas to move to Britain. A statement from Armed Forces Minister Mark Francois explains that 269 visas are currently being processed and the first locally employed civilians are expected to arrive in the UK 'later this summer'. | The Daily Star reports that a task force has seized more than 6,000 kilograms of drugs in the biggest-ever Indian Ocean sting. Australian ship HMAS Darwin made the bust as part of the UK-led Combined Task Force 150.
The piece demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of where we are in the campaign, the drawdown process and the basis on which operational decisions are made. It also omits important information to give the article context, including the increasing capability of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).
The UK has always been clear that our intention is to end combat operations in Afghanistan by the end of 2014. As the Prime Minister said on a visit to the country in December 2013: "The timetable for the withdrawal of British troops is a plan that we will stick to. I said, back in 2010, that after the end of 2014 there would not be British troops in a combat role and we will stick to that."
The precise drawdown of UK troops, which we would not discuss in detail for reasons of operational security, is decided by military commanders in theatre based upon conditions on the ground, on liaison with our closest allies. We are in the process of gradually and responsibly drawing down our forces until the end of the mission.
This process reflects the leading role that the ANSF are now playing in providing security to the people of Afghanistan. For example, most recently the ANSF planned and delivered the security operation for the presidential elections, an important milestone for the country.
Also, as Deputy Commander Regional Command (South West) Brigadier Rob Thomson said yesterday, 'they have fought bravely in northern Helmand, blunting a determined insurgent attack and stabilising the security situation'. While doing so they required minimal International Security Assistance Force support. The ANSF are planning and leading 99% of operations, taking the fight to the Taliban and taking responsibility for their own security.
The Sun report makes no mention of the substantial financial and military contribution the UK has committed to in terms of supporting the security and prosperity of Afghanistan post-2014. We will continue to support the development of the ANSF after our combat role ends and we are taking the coalition lead at the new Afghan National Army Officer Academy, training future Afghan combat leaders.
Our Armed Forces are drawing down in good order and can be proud of the vital part they have played in Helmand. As Brigadier Thomson said yesterday, progress has been made in the area, with more goods for sale in the shops, more young people attending school (including a big increase in the number of girls) and an increase in the capacity of the Afghan health service.
Military commanders on the ground in Helmand are best placed to plan and advise on operational design, and the British public can be assured that the drawdown is being carried out in a way that will protect the future security of Afghanistan and the UK.
As the Prime Minister said in December 2013, whenever our troops come home they will do so 'with their heads held high'.