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Defence Secretary extends ‘invaluable’ Harriers mission in southern Afghanistan

big bad john

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An importNT nnouncement from another politico.


Defence Secretary extends ‘invaluable’ Harriers mission in southern Afghanistan
25 Apr 06
A Joint Force Harrier detachment will continue to provide vital close air support and reconnaissance to Coalition and NATO forces operating in Southern Afghanistan, the Defence Secretary John Reid confirmed today, Tuesday 25 April 2006.

On the third day of his visit to Afghanistan, Mr Reid met with the aircraft crews at their operating base in the southern city of Kandahar. The six Harrier GR7A aircraft have made an invaluable contribution to the success of both the Coalition and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) missions.

Following requests from both NATO and coalition commanders, the MoD has agreed to extend their deployment initially from June 2006 to 31 March 2007. Working alongside other allied aircraft, they will continue to provide the ISAF with a reconnaissance capability, an air presence to reassure the Afghan people of their security and the capacity to strike against any insurgents threatening the safety of NATO and Coalition Forces.

Meeting pilots and ground crew during a tour of the base, Mr Reid said:

"We all know what excellent work the Harriers have done here in Kandahar since they first deployed in September 2004. Whether in support of the ISAF or the coalition, in their reconnaissance role or in providing air support to ground troops under fire, they have been invaluable.

"This has been especially so in recent months when these remarkable aircraft have been able to carry on operating even though the runway is under repair.

"It was no surprise, then, when both coalition and NATO commanders asked we extend the deployment of our Harriers. I am delighted to confirm that the Armed Forces minister Adam Ingram announced to Parliament earlier today our decision to keep the Harrier detachment here initially until 31 March 2007.

"Working alongside our troops deploying into Helmand province and with aircraft from our allies, the Harriers will continue to provide a reconnaissance capability, an air presence to reassure the Afghan people of their security and the capacity to strike against insurgents that may threaten the safety of our Armed Forces and those under their protection.

"In doing so, they will help the Afghan people rebuild their country as a stable, prosperous and democratic nation free from terrorism. And that is what we are in Afghanistan to do."

During his visit to Kandahar Mr Reid also visited and paid tribute to the professionalism of the Canadian-led multinational brigade headquarters under whose command the UK’s Helmand Task Force will serve.

Joint Force Harrier GR7As are playing a major role in Afghanistan. The Harriers, deployed in Afghanistan since September 2004, support both the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in rebuilding Afghanistan, and Operation Enduring Freedom in the south east of the country.

The Harrier detachment, from the Joint Force Harrier Wing based at RAF Cottesmore, operates from Kandahar airbase, one of the most hostile environments in the province. The pilots and groundcrew are currently drawn from 1 (F) Squadron, also RAF Cottesmore, with the Royal Navy expected to take over this role later in the year. The main role of the detachment is to provide a reconnaissance and a deterrent effect to support troops on the ISAF and Op Enduring Freedom missions. Two aircraft are also maintained at 30 minutes notice and are regularly scrambled to defend troops on the ground.

Build up

Meanwhile Mr Reid has been witnessing first hand the build up of troop numbers and infrastructure in Helmand province as he visited UK forces deployed in Lashkar Gar and those involved in the construction of Camp Bastion. Mr Reid said:

"UK troops have been hard at work laying the foundations for a successful deployment in Helmand. Camp Bastion will house the force protection elements supporting the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Lashkar Gar.

"The Provincial Reconstruction Team's mission lies at the heart of all our efforts in Southern Afghanistan. The PRT seeks to help the Afghan government and other agencies deliver real reconstruction and reform in the provinces, through winning the cooperation of local people."

"I have witnessed at every level, from the President to the officer cadets, the children playing in the street to the thriving businesses that line the streets of Kabul, a determination in the Afghan people to secure a stable and democratic future."

John Reid
Mr Reid also met with Governor Daoud, Helmand Governor and visited the forward elements of the Afghan National Army in Helmand province to see the progress being made by the fast-developing Afghan security forces. Commenting on the meetings Mr Reid said:

"Governor Daoud is committed, as is the UK, to helping the people of Afghanistan pursue secure, prosperous and legal livelihoods in an environment free of fear and intimidation. The presence and professionalism of the soldiers of the Afghan National Army, and other elements of the Afghan Security forces in Helmand is testament to that commitment."


Prior to visiting the south Mr Reid was in Kabul. Real and exciting progress has being made in Kabul, Mr Reid said during a day of visits around the Afghan capital. He visited the Officer Cadet School, where he met with UK trainers and aspiring Afghan officers who are being trained in the best traditions of the British military, Sandhurst-style.

Speaking at the Cadet school, Mr Reid said:

"It is encouraging to witness close up the pride and enthusiasm these young Afghan soldiers display, in their efforts to become leaders and guardians of the new democratic Afghanistan. UK military trainers are doing an exceptional job of passing on our world class knowledge of military leadership, drawing on the Sandhurst model.

"The future of the country is in the hands of these young Afghans and I am proud of the UK's funding and support of these crucial projects."

"I have witnessed at every level, from the President to the officer cadets, the children playing in the street to the thriving businesses that line the streets of Kabul, a determination in the Afghan people to secure a stable and democratic future.

"Make no mistake; real and exciting progress is being made here - and the UK remains committed to helping to restore Afghanistan to its rightful place in the community of nations."

Mr Reid noted the following progress:

Political: The first parliamentary and provincial council elections for 36 years were held on 18 September 2005. 53% of eligible Afghans voted - of these 43% were women.
Economic: From a very low base after 2001, growth of 29% in 2002, 16% in 2003 and 8% in 2004
Education: Since 2001, nearly 2,000 schools have been built or rehabilitated and over 6 million children are in school - more than 1/3 of them are girls.
Healthcare: Since 2001, the number of functioning health clinics has increased by 60%.
Refugees: So far, over 3.5 million refuges have returned to their homeland - one of the biggest movements ever of people back to their homes, free from fear.
Former Combatants: Over 62,000 former combatants have been disarmed.
Security: The UK has provided over £37.65 million to support security sector reform since 2002. Working with the Afghans and international partners, assistance has included £10 million to support the development of the Afghan National Army and over £4 million to support the Afghan National Police Force. So far, over 27,000 soldiers and some 60,000 police have been recruited and trained.
Counter Narcotics: The CNPA and Afghan Special Narcotics Force have seized around 150 tons of opiates, over 45 tons of precursor chemicals, destroyed over 183 drugs labs and over 700 drugs smugglers arrested (of which 400 sentenced). 21% decrease in opium production from 2004 to 2005, and 2.4% decrease in cultivation.

Photo 1) A Harrier at Kandahar airbase in southern Afghanistan

Photo 2) Secretary of State for Defence John Reid enjoys a cup of tea with Brigadier Ed Butler (left) and Colonel John Donnelly (right) during a visit to the Afghan National Army Range.
[Picture: Cpl Chris Hargreaves RLC]