ITV News reports that SAS sniper Sergeant Danny Nightingale, who was released from jail after a court appeal, will mark his 38th birthday today with a meeting with lawyers to discuss the fight to overturn his conviction. | The Wall Street Journal reports that Afghanistan's military leaders are preparing a wish list of weaponry ahead of the withdrawal of international troops. | The Telegraph reports that defence companies competing for the £1.5bn Project Marshall contract to replace Britain's military air traffic system are due to submit proposals over the next few days. The contract is expected to be awarded in 2015. | The Independent carries a feature on the Race2Recovery team of six former soldiers who were injured in Iraq and Afghanistan and will be competing in the Dakar Rally. | Various media report on the inquest into the death of Lieutenant Commander Ian Molyneux who was killed on board HMS Astute in a shooting incident. | Various media report that a man swept into the sea on New Year's Day in Blackpool, leading to a search involving RAF pilot Prince William, has now been named. | Various papers have printed the MOD's dismissal of comments made by Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar that Prince Harry was drunk while he killed 'innocent Afghans'.
Army's disciplinary and complaints procedure
The Times has criticised the Army's disciplinary and complaints procedure. Whilst the MOD cannot comment on individual cases we can be clear that the Army is committed to treating all of its soldiers fairly and transparently.
It is only right that those who understand the military best are in charge of the disciplinary process; a point made by Lord Dannatt in The Times today. He argued that the military should have their own form of criminal justice system and that he believed the system was fair.
Commanding Officers are provided with guidelines on the punishments they can award at a summary hearing, taking into account the nature of the offence and aggravating and mitigating factors, and, following the hearing, personnel have 14 days in which to appeal against the finding or punishment awarded at the hearing through a Service Appeal Court. A judge advocate presides over the court and ensures that the proceedings are conducted in accordance with the law.
The Service Complaints Commissioner provides vital independent oversight of the complaints system to ensure it operates as effectively and efficiently as possible. Rather than acting as an Ombudsman after an event, the Commissioner is able to contribute while complaints are still active. To reduce delays, the Commissioner's role is being strengthened, and she will be able to raise any concerns direct with the chain of command. We continue to look for, and implement, ways to improve the complaints system.
There has been widespread media coverage of the search of a stretch of coastline by rescue crews, including the search and rescue helicopter from RAF Valley, on Monday after a man was swept into the sea in gale-force winds. | Various media reports that two men have been arrested over the attempted murder of a police officer in Northern Ireland on Sunday, 30 December 2012. In a separate incident, a pipe bomb was found close to the gates of a police station in the town of Tandragee in Mid-Ulster, and was defused in a controlled explosion by the Army. | Sky News has broadcast reports of New Year celebrations around the world include footage of British Service personnel in Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, counting in 2013. | As one of the guest editors of BBC Radio 4's Today programme yesterday, 1 January, comedian Al Murray visited the town of Royal Wootton Bassett in Wiltshire to meet some of those who played a part in the repatriation ceremonies. | Various media reported yesterday that Pakistan has released more members of the Afghan Taliban, in a fresh sign it supports efforts to start formal peace talks. | The Guardian yesterday carried a comment piece on the future of military confrontation with Iran and the effects it could have on the Middle East, saying there are a number of potential war triggers this year and that Iran’s nuclear-weapons-related missile programmes are more advanced. | The Guardian and the Telegraph both reported yesterday that the US ambassador to NATO said Britain must use the money saved in the withdrawal from Afghanistan to boost its military strength. Ivo Daalder said Europe must invest in its armed forces to prevent NATO’s over-reliance on the US. | The Star reported yesterday that a soldier who was set ablaze in a petrol bomb attack in Iraq in 2005 has completed his 100th marathon. Former Private Karl Hinett was raising money for Queen Elizabeth Hospital where he had more than 100 hours of surgery. | The Mirror yesterday reported that "Chancellor George Osborne has clawed back £300 million from the cash-strapped MOD, as warzone troops suffer job losses and cuts to pay and perks." The report claims the unspent cash could have been used to reinstate the £250 million that has been slashed from the Armed Forces’ allowances as part of austerity measures. The cash represents less than 1 per cent of the departmental budget. | BBC Radio 4's Today programme this morning, 2 January, featured a follow up on yesterday’s Guardian story on comments by US Ambassador Ivo Daalder that European governments need to increase Defence spending, especially to NATO. | The Guardian has reported that gunmen killed six Pakistani female aid workers and a male doctor yesterday, in Swabi district, 75 km northwest of Islamabad, Pakistan, in what appears to be the latest attack by Islamic militants on teams involved in public health campaigns. | A special report in the Guardian claims the Afghan Army will struggle to hold onto the gains as the NATO exit looms. Reporter Julian Borger spent time at Camp Shorabak and with US forces where he says infiltration by the Taliban in the ANA and lack of equipment threaten progress. | The Telegraph and the Guardian report that more than £500,000 was paid to Afghan civilians by the MOD last year according to an official response to a query made under the Freedom Of Information Act. Among the events was the death of six members of a family, including a mother and children, when a rocket overshot its target. | The Wall Street Journal features comment on the possibility of Michele Flournoy succeeding Leon Panetta as US Defense Secretary and the progress of the ANA. | The Times reports that the ANA is struggling with corruption and lack of equipment in the shadow of NATO’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. | Various media report on a new book published by the thinktank Civitas: the Institute for the Study of Civil Society, which calls for billions of pounds of foreign aid money to be diverted to the Armed Forces, creating a force of troops focused on humanitarian relief. Civitas says emergency relief is the most effective form of aid because it is less susceptible to corruption and waste. | The Guardian reports that Armed Forces and MOD crews helped search for a 16-year-old who jumped from a ferry off the Devon coast yesterday. | The FT reports a battle has broken out in Whitehall over plans to rehouse the DfT inside MOD's Main Building. It says the move is being proposed behind the scenes as part of Francis Maude's wider push to cut spending across the civil service. | Various media report that Prince William spent New Year apart from his pregnant wife, Kate, taking part in a dramatic search for a man blown into the sea. The Duke of Cambridge was part of a crew scrambled from RAF Valley just a few hours into the New Year. | The Independent reports that North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, called yesterday for ‘radical’ economic renewal and an end to conflict with the South in the first New Year speech from Pyongyang in nearly two decades.
Afghan former prime minister's verbal attack on Prince Harry
The Telegraph today included an interview with former prime minister of Afghanistan under the Mujahedeen, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. In the article, the founder and leader of the country's Hezb-i-Islamia political party claims that Prince Harry "kills innocent Afghans while he is drunk" and those foreign forces in Afghanistan have "failed".
The suggestion that any member of the UK Armed Forces deployed on operations operates under the influence of alcohol is simply absurd - not least because the consumption of alcohol by UK military personnel is not permitted under any circumstances while deployed in Afghanistan.
UK troops deployed and remain in Afghanistan to protect our national security by removing what was a safe haven for international terrorism.
Now, it is Afghan forces that have lead security responsibility for around 75 per cent of the population in the country and lead up to 80 per cent of conventional partnered operations.
It is this sort of progress that has allowed almost 60 per cent of UK bases in Helmand to be shut or handed over, and will allow us to leave a stronger, more secure Afghanistan when combat operations cease by the end of 2014.