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UK costs of Iraq, Afghan wars soar

IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency

London, Feb 13, IRNA – The cost of Britain's military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq this financial year ending next month has soared by more than 50 per cent to over Pnds 4.5 billion (Dlrs 6.5 bn), according to the latest official figures.

The new figures mean that the total cost so far of Britain's military engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001 and not including civil aid money, which also runs into billions of pounds, has reached around Pnds 14 bn.

Operations in southern Afghanistan in the current year accounted nearly Pnds 2.6 bn, compared with £1.5bn in 2007-08.

Much of the increase was spent on providing tougher armoured vehicles for soldiers who face a growing threat of roadside bombs.

Despite plans by the government to withdraw from Basra, the cost of Britain's military presence in southern Iraq also increased to nearly Pnds 2 bn, compared with less than £1.5bn last year, according to the figures released by the Ministry of Defence.

Much of the increase in Iraq was accounted for by what defence officials called "impairment" - writing off the value of equipment such as Warrior fighting vehicles which are judged not to be worth the expense of bringing back to Britain.

The escalating costs has raised concern from MPs, with the Liberal Democrat’s shadow defence secretary, Nick Harvey, warning that “every extra day British forces spend in Iraq costs millions of pounds and diverts much-needed helicopters and vehicles from Afghanistan.”

“The government must make sure that this time it keeps true to its commitment to withdraw all forces from Basra airbase as soon as possible,” said Harvey.

He also warned that the military price tag will not in itself bring success in Afghanistan. “We need to see all Nato allies pulling their weight, alongside greater involvement of regional partners, including Iran, to create a stable Afghanistan," he said.

Fears are that cost of the war in Afghanistan is likely to increase further as the government comes under pressure from the US to deploy more troops in addition to the deployment, which has already doubled to over 8,000 in the last two years.

Conservative MP Patrick Mercer, who is an adviser to the prime minister on security issues, was not surprised at the growing costs.

“War is expensive and during the credit crunch everything to do with war has got more expensive,” he said.

The extra money for the wars comes from the Treasury's contingency reserve and not from the country’s defence budget, which is already overstretched.

This year, the defence budged has been increased by more than Pnds 500 m to just over Pnds 38 bn.

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