UK does not have enough copters in Afghanistan

LONDON (AFP) - Britain does not have enough helicopters in Afghanistan, a junior foreign minister said Wednesday, stoking a heated row over military resources and embarrassing Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Lord Mark Malloch-Brown, who steps down this week, added his voice to calls by the Opposition and military chiefs for more troops and equipment in Afghanistan after a surge in British deaths there in a newspaper interview. We definitely dont have enough helicopters, the minister told the Daily Telegraph. When you have these modern operations and insurgent strikes what you need, above all else, is mobility. Malloch-Brown, whose responsibilities as a Foreign Office minister include Afghanistan, announced this month he was resigning from the government for family and personal reasons at the end of this week. Professor Michael Clarke, director of defence think-tank the Royal United Services Institute, said his intervention was astonishing. He seems to be throwing down a challenge, which is to say 'we have to rethink our strategic priorities over Afghanistan and what we are trying to achieve there, Clarke told the BBC. Later, Prime Minister Gordon Brown dismissed remarks by one of his ministers Wednesday that Britain does not have enough helicopters in Afghanistan, as he sought to move past a damaging row over resources. Brown said the remarks to a newspaper by outgoing junior Foreign Office minister Lord Mark Malloch-Brown had been misrepresented and repeated his insistence that British troops had everything they need. I am satisfied that Operation Panthers Claw has the resources it needs to be successful, he said, referring to a major assault on Taliban insurgents in the southern Afghan province of Helmand which British troops began in June. I think the fact that it is making progress at the moment and yielding results already shows that that is the case.... For the operation we are doing at the moment we have the helicopters we need. Brown has been forced to defend his strategy in Afghanistan following a surge in troops deaths there, in a row that has piled the pressure on a government already struggling with the recession and an expenses scandal. The intervention of Malloch-Brown is an embarrassing addition to calls from military chiefs and the main Opposition Conservatives - who are leading Browns Labour party in the polls - for more troops and equipment. In his monthly press conference, Brown said the way the newspaper had interpreted Malloch-Browns interview remarks was a misrepresentation, which had been corrected. Asked whether more helicopters would have saved troops lives in Afghanistan, he said: More helicopters in general, yes... But in the operations we are having at the moment it is completely wrong to say that the loss of lives has been caused by the absence of helicopters.

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