The BBC commented that there were not many of us in for the debate on Afghanistan yesterday. The truth was more of us went in than could speak, because once again the time allowed for the debate was too short. Those who did speak were limited to 6 or 8 minutes. I left it to colleagues who specialise in defence and who have visited Afghanistan.
It was a serious debate which abandoned party lines. There were several Conservatives strongly in favour of the war and the need to press it more vigorously. There were Labour MPs who disagreed with our presence there and felt we should get out as soon as possible as honourably as possible. Most MPs agreed we needed to provide the equipment needed, though there was more disagreement on party lines on whether that was currently being delivered.
It is now emerging that the UK has many helicopters that are not being committed to Afghanistan, whilst our troops in Afghanistan have access to far fewer helicopters than their US allies. The government is right to say that not all journeys can be made by air, and that some of the tragic deaths could not have been avoided by the presence of helicopters. The critics are right to say that the way to protect more troops more often against the latest Taliban tactic of bombs on roads is to fly more . After the bluster and spin, the government will probably get round to sending more helicopters. Why on earth don’t they change their line, say the Taliban tactics have evolved and as a result it is their priority to send more suitable transport to the troops and they are straining every sinew to do so? And then why don’t they do it?