Ex-forces chief hits at lack of funding

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A former head of the armed forces has accused the Government and the Prime Minister of spending the "minimum they could get away with" on defence in Afghanistan and putting soldiers at risk, it was reported today.

Former chief of the defence staff General Lord Guthrie told the Daily Mail that commanders on the ground were struggling with too few troops.

He said an officer had admitted to him that "the Treasury had affected the operational safety of our soldiers, by preventing an uplift in our numbers".

And he said that when troops went into the country in 2006, they suffered from a lack of funds as a result of the "unsympathetic view" the then-chancellor Gordon Brown and his Treasury had of defence.

"They were prepared to give very large amounts of money to other departments, but the minimum they could get away with to defence."

He said UK commanders wanted 2,000 more troops to "enable them to carry out operations and hold ground which has been seized, denying the opportunity for the Taliban to return".

Funding for more helicopters, he said, could have prevented soldiers being killed by roadside bombs.

Last month Lord Guthrie said the planned inquiry into the Iraq war was unlikely to examine Mr Brown's role, as former chancellor, in failing to equip troops properly.

He told The Times: "Although the equipment is excellent now, initially and subsequently in Iraq, it was very poor, and if Gordon Brown as chancellor had been more sympathetic, it would have kept people alive."

Former SAS commander Lord Guthrie was head of the British Army until 1997 and then chief of defence staff until 2001.

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