Cost of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are set to double to £3.3bn
THE costs of the war in Iraq are set to soar to more than £1.6 billion this year, despite the reduction in UK forces there.
The spiralling expense has been attributed to new equipment to protect troops, triggering accusations that the government has belatedly realised it has left soldiers under-resourced.
Operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan are set to cost over 3 billion, almost double the amount for the previous year, once indirect costs have been added.
Liam Fox, the shadow defence secretary, said: "We have been complaining for a long time that these operations are under- resourced. It appears that this is something the government seems to belatedly recognise only now.
"However, I am afraid that too many brave service members have been killed or injured because of a lack of correct equipment, in particular Labour's catastrophic 1.4 million cut to the helicopter budget in 2004."
But Bob Ainsworth, the armed forces minister, said that the government was trying to ensure personnel in the field were properly equipped, while welfare changes, such as the payment of operational bonuses, had also pushed up costs.
"The threat changes, it constantly changes. The enemy learns and changes the threat to our people. We have to stay ahead of the game as best we can, and it is not cheap," he said.
According to the Ministry of Defence's latest "spring estimates", spending on operations in the two wars is forecast to be nearly 3.3 billion – or 94 per cent more on last year's total of 1.7 billion.
MPs on the Commons defence committee said they were "surprised" at the rise in costs for Iraq, because operations there were being scaled back.
The forecast for Iraq is 1.648 billion, up 72 per cent since the last set of "winter estimates", while operations in Afghanistan are expected to cost 1.649 billion, an increase of 122 per cent on the previous estimates. The committee said it was concerned that the MoD's forecasts were "insufficiently robust" and called for a more detailed breakdown.
James Arbuthnot, the committee chairman said: "Few people will object to the investment being made in better facilities and equipment for our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"However, this estimate represents a lot of public money. The MoD needs to provide better information about what it is all being spent on."
Nick Harvey, the Liberal Democrat defence spokesman, said forces were paying the price for being stretched on two fronts.
"This clearly shows how the Iraq war is continuing to bleed our finances dry, leaving soldiers in Afghanistan overstretched and under-equipped," he said.
"If the government, supported by the Conservatives, had not been so keen to support the illegal war in Iraq, the Afghanistan operation could have been much better resourced."
Overall, the MoD is forecasting that it will need an additional 2.192 billion for the current financial year over and above the previous winter estimate.
• The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could cost the US almost three trillion dollars by 2017, a Nobel Prize-winning economist predicts in his latest book.
The Iraq war alone will cost the US around $12 billion (5.96 billion) per month, Joseph Stiglitz, the co-author of The Three Trillion Dollar War, said.
Soldiers survive on food costing less than 4 a day
THE military spends on average less than 4 a day on food for every British soldier serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, official figures have revealed.
Troops in Iraq have just 3.30 spent on their diet every day while soldiers in Afghanistan survive on food costing 4.10 a day.
The true cost of providing food to soldiers on front-line operations is far greater, however, as much of the expense goes on storage and distribution in hostile environments.
According to Ministry of Defence figures, just under half the daily budget of 6.47 for food goes on storage and distribution.
In Afghanistan's more extreme terrain, however, more than two-thirds of the 12.84 daily budget goes on getting the food to the troops. That leaves 32 per cent of the budget to be spent on the actual food items.
Back at base, soldiers can expect the sort of food they may enjoy at home, such as steak and chips, ice-cream and jelly.
But out in the field, soldiers have sachet packs of food such as tuna pasta, corned beef hash, meat-free sausage and beans or milkshakes.
The daily calorie allowance is 3,500-4,500 calories.
Prince Harry recently described the food as "miserable" and called for sausage and mash to be served to boost morale and appetite.
Magazine apologises for revealing Harry's posting
AN AUSTRALIAN magazine apologised yesterday for publishing a story which revealed that Prince Harry was fighting alongside fellow British troops in Afghanistan and resulted in him being sent home.
New Idea, a celebrity and lifestyle magazine, said it was unaware of a media embargo about the prince's mission when it ran the story in January.
The report went largely unnoticed until February when the Drudge Report website cited the magazine and a German publication with running the news. The story was widely reported and officials decided to pull Harry out of Afghanistan for his safety and that of his unit.
In an unattributed item in its latest edition, issued today, New Idea did not explain the source of its January story and indicated it did not check with British military officials before publishing.
"We did not knowingly breach any embargo and were not party to any agreement for a media blackout on the story," the magazine stated. "However, we acknowledge our actions can be reasonably viewed as insensitive and irresponsible. We regret this serious lapse of judgment."
The magazine apologised to its readers and to troops serving abroad and their families.
Harry spent almost ten weeks in Afghanistan's volatile Helmand province, with his deployment kept secret in a deal between the MoD and the British media.
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