Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary memorandum from the Secretary of State for Defence

  I promised to follow up my oral evidence session on 11 July with answers to some specific questions raised by the Committee. I will deal with each question in the order in which they were raised.

  Adam Holloway asked whether all UK patrols in Iraq now have an "Iraqi face". The composition of patrols in the provinces of MND(SE) is informed by the security situation and the level of development of the local security forces. It also recognises the preference of the local authorities and commanders. In Al Muthanna, where security responsibility has now transferred to the Iraqi authorities, routine patrolling is now conducted by the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) alone, occasionally augmented by MND(SE) assets. In Maysan and Basra provinces, some patrolling will be done unilaterally by MND(SE) troops and some will be either conducted jointly with ISF, or include ISF representatives. In addition we carry out joint operations with different elements of the ISF across MND(SE).

  Specific operations targeting corrupt elements of the Iraqi Police are necessarily conducted without Iraqi Police Service (IPS) involvement but, where possible, with the close involvement of Iraqi agencies from Baghdad, including elements of the ISF.

  Mark Lancaster requested more detail on the composition of additional infantry going to Afghanistan and whether they are single formed infantry companies or composite companies. I can assure you that we have not deployed, and are not intending to deploy, composite companies for Regular forces, including for Afghanistan. It is, however, normal practice to deploy composite Territorial Army (TA) companies. This is a function of the TA call-up process; we cannot guarantee or expect a 100% call-up success rate for deployment, thus composites occur.

  Mr Lancaster also asked about gapped posts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Any large Headquarters sees staff posted in and out, which may result in a small number of posts being gapped at any one time. Those on operations are no exception. In Iraq, for example, around 10 posts are currently gapped, but this will change week-on-week. As you would expect, we take care to ensure that gapping of key appointments is avoided.

  Dai Harvard asked for more information regarding the additional forces being deployed to Afghanistan—what their roles would be and to clarify whether this includes trainers for the Afghan National Army. As I announced in the House on 10 July 2006, we will be deploying around 870 additional troops to enhance our capabilities over the next few months. In addition, another 120 troops will deploy in October this year, primarily as a result of replacing forces drawn from 16 Air Brigade with others from three Commando Brigade, Royal Marines. These troops will include additional trainers to the Afghan National Army, drawn from elements of three Commando Brigade. Most of these troops will be based in Helmand province with a smaller number at Kandahar.

  Finally, Mike Hancock asked how quickly the Military Complaints Commissioner could be in place. As I explained, this will depend on the provisions that Parliament make in the Armed Forces Bill. However, once all the legislative elements are complete we would expect the appointment process to take around six months.

  I hope this is helpful.

28 September 2006

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