The Chilcot Report confirmed what bereaved families and servicemen and women have been saying for over a decade – they were sent to war with poor, inadequate equipment: they were made to make do.
Taking vehicles as an example, at the start of operations in Iraq, the MOD knew there were gaps in respect of the vehicles they could call on.Barely a month into the invasion, it became clear that the threat of improvised explosive devices (IEDS) was high and it was likely this was going to increase and evolve.
Today, Sir John Chilcot said the MOD were “slow” to respond to that threat and the MOD’s answer to use the unprotected snatch land rover “as the best available stop gap” should only ever have been that – a stop gap. Yet, it took over three years to find and order a replacement. Shockingly, it was not clear to the inquiry and the MOD couldn’t answer, whose responsibility it was for identifying gaps in its capability.
Moving forward to Afghanistan, when so much more was known about the threat and ongoing use of IEDs, the MOD introduced the pinzgauer vector. A vehicle which offered absolutely no protection against IEDS or mines. The MOD must now accept full responsibility and apologise for those failings; furthermore it should compensate those whose lives have been catastrophically changed forever.
It cannot be allowed to hide behind the law of combat immunity which quite rightly prevents any civil liability arising from decisions made in the heat of battle: a commander on the ground should not fear judicial scrutiny when making tactical operational decisions. But the decisions to use inadequate vehicles and then procure inadequate replacements weren’t made whilst under fire in Basra or Helmand – they were made from the safety and comfort of Whitehall and the MOD must be held accountable for that.