UK rejects call for inquiry into Afghan war

The British government has rejected a call to hold an inquiry into the reasons for the UK incursion into Helmand province in Afghanistan in 2006. “At the present time, there are no plans to initiate an inquiry into the reasons for the UK deployment to Helmand,” said Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt. “It would be wrong to consider holding an inquiry while our troops are still risking their lives and while operations are ongoing,” Burt said in a written parliamentary reply published. He said that the British government announced their first deployment of troops to Helmand in January 2006, as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) expansion to the south of the country. At the time, Defence Secretary John Reid said that some 3,300 British troops would be deployed for three years at a cost of £1 billion and that he expected them to leave “without a bullet being fired.” But since then, 344 UK soldiers have lost their lives compared with five during the first five years of the Afghan war. The number deployed has also risen to nearly 10,000 at an escalating cost of more than £3 bn a year. The call for an inquiry was made by veteran Labour MP Paul Flynn, who set up an all-party parliamentary group last year demanding a withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan. The Afghan war is based upon a “false assumption” that the country presents a terrorist threat to Britain, Flynn previously told IRNA. “The longer the exit is delayed the more soldiers will die in a lost cause,” he warned. The British government used the same excuse to delay the current inquiry to learn lessons from the debacle of the Iraq war, which distracted attention in 2003 from Afghanistan. In its defence review last October, the government effectively announced that Britain’s armed forces will be no longer able to mount the kind of military operations conducted in Iraq and Afghanistan due to the scale of cuts needed to balance the budget.