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You can't win a war on a peacetime budget

NewspapersAfghanistan There are two bold options for Afghanistan: 

  1. One is to withdraw and acknowledge that we don't have the resources to beat the Taliban.  Nick Clegg seems to be moving in this direction.  I, like today's Platform contributor, think that the wrong option.
  2. The second bold option is to follow Barack Obama and pledge to do whatever is necessary to secure victory.

The easiest and bloodiest option is to carry on as we are - sending a hesitant message to our enemies in the region about our resolve.

It is not clear what the Tory position is.  David Cameron has again called for a clarification of our mission and Liam Fox has said that our 9,000 troops in the country (10% of the British Army) do not have enough helicopters or armoured vehicles.  Dr Fox is clearly right but he faces massive cuts in his budget if the Tories win the next election.  By maintaining spending on the NHS the spending axe will fall much more heavily on other areas of public expenditure - like the already overstretched defence budget.

The Tory leadership's policy on further real increases in NHS spending is not supported by either Tory candidates or Tory members.  When asked by ConHome which area of expenditure should be MOST immune from spending cuts, 39% of 144 Tory candidates said defence and only 34% said the NHS.

A poll of 1,528 Tory members from 30th June to 2nd July found more than two-thirds urging the Conservative Party to oversee a fairer distribution of the burden of public spending restraint:

6832 Unforgivably, Gordon Brown and Tony Blair sent our troops to war on a peacetime budget.  Although, as Tim Collins writes in today's Independent our troops are making substantial progress, the battle for Afghanistan will see further heavy troop losses without greater resources.  David Cameron failed to back the surge of troops in Iraq.  Will he now back the kind of financial commitment necessary for real victory in Afghanistan?

Tim Montgomerie


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