UK’s Defence Sec to answer for bloody Afghan mission

Bob Ainsworth will address the House of Commons today for the first time since the death of eight British troops in Afghanistan in a bloody 24 hour period.
He is likely to rebut claims from the Conservatives that the government has sent British forces underequipped into the increasingly deadly conflict, Reuters reports.
At the weekend Prime Minister Gordon Brown said a major British and US
offensive against Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province was succeeding despite the heavy toll.
And Chancellor Alistair Darling said British troops in Afghanistan would get whatever equipment they needed.
The bodies of the eight soldiers killed in Afghanistan last week will be flown back to Britain tomorrow.
Five were killed by two blasts while on the same foot patrol near Sangin in the southern province of Helmand.
The number of British troops killed in Afghanistan 184 now surpasses the British toll from the Iraq conflict, threatening to undermine public confidence in the mission.
However, an opinion poll conducted for the Guardian and the BBC showed support for the war remained firm.
The ICM survey put backing for British involvement at 46 %, slightly behind opposition at 47 percent and up 15 points from the last time opinion was tested in 2006.
Conservative Defence Spokesman Liam Fox said troops in Afghanistan were suffering from a 2004 decision to cut military spending on helicopters.
“The consequence is that we have too few helicopters and are too dependent on either borrowing them or moving our men around in armoured vehicles that seem to have become increasingly susceptible to an ever more sophisticated Taliban,” he told Sky News.
But British Army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Nick Richardson said troops were better equipped than ever and that they were beating the Taliban.
“You could put as many helicopters as you wanted in here, but sadly at the end of the day troops have got to go out on the ground,” he told Sky News from Lashkar Gah in Afghanistan.
“You can’t defeat the enemy from a helicopter, and you can’t engage and win consent with the local population from a helicopter. You have to have boots on the ground to do that.”
Brown addressed troops directly at the weekend, telling the British Forces Broadcasting Service: “I know that this has been a difficult summer so far and it is going to continue to be a difficult summer.”
The latest military operation is aimed at making Helmand safe for people to vote in August 20 presidential elections.
Britain has 9000 soldiers in Afghanistan, the second largest foreign contingent after the US.