Colonel condemns leaks about army in Afghanistan

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A former British commander condemned WikiLeaks today for revealing US cables containing concerns about British forces not being "up to the task" in Helmand province in Afghanistan.

Colonel Stuart Tootal, who commanded the 3rd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment in Helmand, told BBC Breakfast: "The people who leak this stuff, they're not helping anyone. They are certainly not helping the poor British or American infantrymen and they are certainly not helping Afghan people.

"I don't think any of this is in the public interest."

He said the US held British forces "in the highest regard" and said the army had ensured "strong security" in Afghanistan for US troops.

But Col Tootal admitted the UK had suffered from a lack of resources in Afghanistan.

Referring to comments in the cables claiming the UK had "made a mess of things" in Helmand, he said: "These are the views of some individuals and they are some time ago.

"They refer to a period of time when there were not the right resources.

"Some of the individual criticisms I think are very unfair. We have now got the resources in place.

"I don't think (the army) made a mess of things but we got some of our approach wrong in not having enough resources.

"A lot of this comment is historic and some of it is unfair."

The father of a soldier killed by a blast in Afghanistan said he agreed with the comments made in the leaked cables.

Ian Sadler said British troops were not properly equipped to fight and that he welcomed the WikiLeaks release.

His son, Trooper Jack Sadler, 21, of the Honourable Artillery Company, died after the Land Rover he was travelling in hit a mine north of Sangin in Helmand Province on December 4 2007.

Mr Sadler, from Exmouth, Devon, said: "I agree with what they said. We weren't up to doing the job.

"The soldiers were, but they didn't have the support of the government, and they still don't have the full support. They're still using the wrong vehicles.

"If you employ a carpenter but you buy his tools in a toy shop, you shouldn't expect him to do a good job."

He said too much money was spent on civil servants' salaries and pensions rather than on vital equipment.

"The British Army with American equipment would be second to none," he added.

Mr Sadler said he did not mind that the comments had been leaked in such a way as they had come from "people on the ground".

He added: "They thought that it was a secure link, so they said what they thought. They didn't think anybody was going to pick up on the comments. We usually only get the politically-correct version of the truth."

Colonel Richard Kemp, former British commander in Afghanistan, told Sky News that no-one could criticise the "fighting spirit of British soldiers" but added: "What is being criticised here, and I would agree with some of the criticism, is the under-resourcing."