Thu, Nov 02, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Iraq, Afghanistan operations have cost UK £4 billion

THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

Britain's participation in the invasion of Iraq and its continuing military presence in the country has cost more than £4 billion (US$7.6 billion), according to UK Ministry of Defence figures.

Operations by the armed forces in southeast Iraq cost UK taxpayers £958 million in the last financial year, compared with £910 million in the 2004 financial year (July-June).

The previous year, which included the immediate aftermath of the invasion, cost £1.3 billion. The figure for 2002 was £847 million.

The total cost reached £4,026 million by the end of March.

Treasury figures released at the time of the budget last March showed the total allocated to the special reserve for Britain's extra "international obligations" came to more than £6.4 billion.

Most of this money has come from the reserves rather than the main defence budget. However, that budget is also under severe strain as a result of the tempo of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A report for General Sir Richard Dannatt shortly before he took up the post of head of the army in August warned that a cut of more than £40 million had increased pressure on the army, where such reductions were causing a "severe impediment to the delivery of operational capability."

General Dannatt subsequently told the Guardian that the army could only just cope with the demands being placed on it.

The latest survey of attitudes among personnel in the armed forces published yesterday found that one in five soldiers wants to leave the army "at the earliest opportunity" while only 31 percent said they felt "valued."

However, only 38 percent of those blamed overstretch as the reason for their desire to leave.

The defense ministry said morale was higher than last year and that a majority of the armed forces had "high" or "very high" morale and were satisfied with their rotations, equipment and logistical support.

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