Armed Forces 'unprepared' for attack in Gulf War

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BRITAIN'S Armed Forces were unprepared to meet any large-scale attack using chemical weapons and mechanised forces in 1990, let alone the developments in the Middle East which led to the 1991 Gulf War, a report by the all-party Select Committee on Defence said yesterday, writes Christopher Bellamy.

The report reinforces studies by defence academics which concluded British forces in Germany would have been incapable of meeting a Soviet attack. It also confirms that, but for the build-up from August 1990 until January 1991, British forces would have suffered heavy and unnecessary casualties in the Gulf.

The report said it was 'scandalous' that 77 per cent of Challenger tanks based in Germany were under repair or out of service just before the Gulf War. British forces also lacked chemical alarm detectors, biological detection systems, specialist decontamination equipment and a full range of medical counter-measures, the all-party committee said.

But the committee said there was no evidence Iraq had used chemical or biological weapons during the conflict. It therefore had no plans to hold an inquiry into Gulf War Syndrome, which has allegedly affected thousands of American veterans.

Defence Committee: Fifth Report. Implementation of lessons learned from Operation Granby; HMSO; pounds 19.90.