A critical report by the House of Commons Defence Committee, published today (Sunday), questions the coalition government's plan to remove troops by 2015, saying such a decision should be based on circumstances, not artificial deadlines. And it says the shortfall in troop numbers and the poor state of equipment they were given on deployment in Helmand in 2006 was "unacceptable". BAFF comment:

Governments exploit the ability of the Armed Forces to get on and make the best out of a bad situation - this is what makes our Armed Forces the best in the world.

However, this cynical exploitation comes at a cost – the cost of too many of our troops coming home with life-changing injuries or having paid the ultimate sacrifice.

It is only right that if the Government puts our servicemen into danger that they have the right equipment and support to enable them to do the job that is asked of them.  Our Government must fund the MOD to fulfil its tasks and agree to fully fund additional tasks over and above those which it has agreed.

Whilst the tempo of Forces has begun to reduce following the drawdown in Iraq; operations in Libya are beginning to make the Forces “run hot” again.  This increased operational tempo, along with a major redundancy programme and cuts to the MOD budget is of grave concern.

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The Defence Select Committee report

The Committee's 43 Conclusions and Recommendations all have implications of course for serving personnel, but they include the following:

1.  We wish to pay tribute to all the British personnel, both military and civilian, who are currently serving or have served in Afghanistan but, in particular, to those who lost their lives in Afghanistan, and the many more who have sustained life-changing injuries as a result of the conflict there. We also express our deep gratitude for the vital contribution made by the families of Armed Forces personnel. ,,, The Armed Forces and civilian personnel in Afghanistan have our full support in tackling the challenges before them.

15.  We recommend that the MoD make greater efforts to reduce breaches of harmony guidelines for all personnel and take these breaches into account when deciding which trades and groups of Armed Forces personnel should be subject to redundancies.

16.  The MoD does not record centrally how many Armed Forces personnel have been on multiple deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq and other operational theatres. Such information is vital to allow the Armed Forces to judge the load on individual personnel. We recommend that this information is collated and should be considered alongside breaches of harmony guidelines when judging the pressures on the Armed Forces, and on individuals when deciding on posting.

17.  We look forward to seeing the results of the work being done to improve the effectiveness of the airbridge. In the meantime, we recommend that the MoD negotiate with allies to permit the use of their resources to plug any gaps in the airbridge.