Making the news today, British Tornado aircraft have again operated over Syria and Iraq after taking off from RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus overnight.
Strikes against Daesh
Several of today’s front pages reflect military activity in Syria, with pictures of RAF Tornado aircraft operating from RAF Akrotiri. All outlets report that a further two RAF Tornado and six Typhoon aircraft arrived in Akrotiri yesterday, doubling the number of manned UK strike aircraft in the region to 16.
The Guardian splashes on the Prime Minister’s comments yesterday that the military campaign against Daesh could take at least two years alongside Defence Secretary Michael Fallon’s comments that the UK’s strikes on the Omar oilfields in eastern Syria were successful. The Times and Sun newspapers both splash with a story claiming that military officials warned against using the 70,000 Syrian moderates figure in any debate on strikes.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said:
My department did not raise concerns with Number 10 about whether the 70,000 figure should be included in the Prime Minister’s response to the Foreign Affairs Committee.
The 70,000 figure was produced by the independent Joint Intelligence Committee which includes senior Ministry of Defence officials among its membership. The figure was based on intelligence assessments including those provided by my department.
For the latest on air strikes in Syria, keep an eye on our strike update page which is updated on a regular basis.
Public Accounts Committee
The Telegraph carries a piece saying a Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report on defence financial management has called on the MOD to improve the way it manages contracts with private firms. The FT focuses on the PAC’s report on military flying training, citing previous National Audit Office criticism of the Ascent programme.
A MOD spokesperson said:
We welcome the report’s findings and the recognition that the defence budget has been balanced, such that we can now invest £178bn in defence equipment over the next decade. We always strive to deliver maximum value for the taxpayer which is why our military flying training programme was overhauled in 2012 to address early implementation issues. Our flying training system continues to deliver the world-class aircrew we require for our front line squadrons, which are making such a difference against Daesh and around the world.
The Times carries an article saying that Afghan security forces are under pressure following fierce fighting in Marjah and Sangin in Helmand Province and claiming there have been policing absences in the capital Lashkar Gah as citizens fear that insurgents will take key locations. The article refers to the fact that British forces handed over its former headquarters in the city last year.
A MOD spokesperson said:
While the security situation in parts of Afghanistan is challenging, it is the ANDSF forces who are in the lead for security across the country. The UK continues to provide support in the form of the NATO Resolute Support Mission, and in addition the UK leads the Kabul Security Force, which coordinates force protection for UK and NATO civilian and military personnel in Kabul.
We have no plans to increase troop numbers in Afghanistan.
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