Snatch Land Rovers to stay in Afghanistan

Tuesday Dec 16

Snatch Land Rovers to stay in Afghanistan

Snatch Land Rovers will remain on operations in Afghanistan and Iraq despite their use on patrol being allegedly responsible for the deaths of dozens of British soldiers, the defence secretary John Hutton will announce.

By Thomas Harding, James Kirkup and Andrew Pierce
Last Updated: 1:10AM GMT 16 Dec 2008

Snatch Land Rovers are to remain use in Aghanistan.
The lightly armoured vehicles have been linked to the deaths of at least 38 British service personnel and The Daily Telegraph recently disclosed that an SAS major had resigned because of the "gross negligence" shown by defence chiefs in allowing their continued use.

However, military chiefs have continued to insist that the vehicles are "mission critical" in Afghanistan.

In a written ministerial statement on Tuesday, Mr Hutton will say that he has taken "urgent and comprehensive advice" from military operational commanders over whether continued use of Snatch on operations is necessary.

He will tell MPs that steps are being taken to replace Snatch with heavier, better-protected vehicles, but that Snatch will not be withdrawn from use. The decision to continue using it has been taken by military leaders including General Sir Richard Dannatt, chief of the general staff.

"Snatch will not be withdrawn. The judgement of commanders is that there remains an operational case for it," said one source. "This is a military decision."

Despite a wealth of evidence from soldiers on the ground - including the Snatch nickname of "mobile coffins" - military chiefs have continued to insist that in "the current circumstances Snatch is essential to operations"

The Defence Secretary will say that the Snatch is to be rapidly replaced by the allegedly more robust Snatch Vixen of which there is "no better vehicle in the world". The Snatch 2A - the current model - will be reduced in numbers "until it is used only in our camps", he will say.

Mr Hutton will also risk angering the families of those of who have lost their lives in the vehicles by ruling out an independent inquiry into their use.

However, The Daily Telegraph has learned that the families will now seek a judicial review of that decision. Many had wanted a public inquiry.

There have been at least 38 deaths in attacks on Snatch Land Rovers since their introduction to Iraq in late 2003. The Daily Telegraph disclosed earlier this year that Major Sebastian Morley, an SAS commander in Afghanistan, had resigned following the death of four of his soldiers in one of the vehicles.

A petition on the Downing Street website calling for an inquiry has already raised 1,000 signatures of people calling for an investigation.

The petition campaign at has been led by Sue Smith who lost her son Phillip Hewett in a Snatch bombing in Iraq three years ago.

"I think this inquiry is long overdue because they only look at the problems with these vehicles when people die and that has been going on for five years now," she said. "No one has learned lessons here because they sent Snatch out to Afghanistan after so many were killed in Iraq."

The SAS commander in Afghanistan Major Sebastian Morley resigned last month following the death of four of his soldiers in a Snatch in Afghanistan in June despite numerous requests for alternative vehicles.

Des Feely, the father of Cpl Sarah Bryant one of those four soldiers, said the MoD had been warned "umpteen times" that patrols using Snatch were "virtually on a suicide mission".

"The British public needs to ensure that this government is held accountable for the way it has chosen to unashamedly disregard the security of our troops."

The Lib Dem MP Paul Holmes, said he signed the petition because his Chesterfield constituent Ben Ford was killed in a Snatch

"An inquiry could get to the bottom of why the Government sent soldiers into battle without proper equipment from which people have died as a result."

The decision to go on using Snatch will come alongside an announcement on the introduction of new generation of armoured vehicles, which will reduce the use of existing vehicles like Snatch and Viking.

In one of his last acts before being sacked as Defence Secretary, Des Browne won a battle with the Treasury to spend 500 million buying 600 new armoured vehicles.

Those vehicles include 100 Mastiffs, a the UK variant of the US Army's Cougar troop-carrier, 100 Jackals and new 300 "light-support" vehicles with armour to protect against IED blasts.

The statement on Snatch Land Rovers comes after the Prime Minister announced that an extra 300 soldiers will be drafted to Afghanistan until at least August next year bringing the total to 8,300.

It has also been disclosed that urgent military spending in Afghanistan has increased by 54 per cent with the campaign costing 2.3 billion this financial year, the Commons defence committee said in a report.

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