Monday, May 24, 2010

Secretary of State for Defence visits troops in Helmand Province

Secretary of State for Defence, Dr Liam Fox, visited troops in Lashkar Gah in Helmand Province today in his first visit since taking up his Cabinet post. He was joined by Foreign Secretary William Hague, International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell and Chief of the Defence Staff Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup.

Right Honorable (Rt Hon) William Hague Member of Parliament (MP), The Foreign Secretary, the Rt Hon Dr Liam Fox MP, The Secretary of State for Defence, the Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell MP, the Secretary of State for International Development

The visitors were briefed by Brigadier Richard Felton, the Commander of Task Force Helmand and by Lindy Cameron, the head of the Provincial Reconstruction Team before meeting service personnel based in Lashkar Gah.

Captain Stuart Thomas of 204 Signal Squadron said: “It’s a great show of support for the three ministers to come out so shortly after the election and it was great to hear them speak passionately about our achievements in Afghanistan. Liam Fox was keen to find out what life is like for us here and our relationship with the Afghan Security Forces, which is improving all the time”.

All three Ministers then addressed the assembled service and civilian personnel and praised their courage and dedication to the mission in Afghanistan.

Liam Fox said: "I will give you my promise that we will do everything we can to ensure that whatever you are asked to do, you are properly, fully equipped to do so, to maximise your chance of success and minimise the risk to you."
Mr Hague paid tribute to the progress which has been made in Helmand saying he was "full of admiration” for the work being done.

He said: "It's very encouraging for all of us who have been here 18 months or two years ago to see the enormous progress that's been made thanks to your incredible hard work. The difference over that period, the difference in governance, the difference in freedom of movement, the difference in protecting communities, is colossal. And a lot of that progress has been made in the last few months. We want to thank you for all that hard work."

Chief of the Defence Staff Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup

Many soldiers were keen to know about the promised doubling of operational bonuses. The Defence Secretary announced that after discussions with the Treasury, the new Government will be sticking to the pledge and details of the increase will be announced in next month’s budget.

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