The Telegraph 2024-02-04 07:02:48


Britain’s ‘hollowed out’ Armed Forces not ready to fight Russia

Britain’s “increasingly overstretched” Armed Forces are not ready for a war with Russia, a damning inquiry by MPs has concluded…

Britain and US launch fresh wave of strikes on Houthi targets in Yemen

Britain and the United States launched a fresh wave of strikes against the Houthi in Yemen on Saturday night, in a bid to further disable Iran-backed groups in the region.

The new strikes hit 36 targets across 13 locations following attacks by the Iran-backed groups against international and commercial shipping, as well as naval vessels travelling through the Red Sea.

Royal Air Force Typhoon FGR4s, supported by Voyager tankers, flew from Cyprus to join US forces in a further strike against Houthi locations involved in targeting shipping in the Bab al Mandab and southern Red Sea.

The Typhoons employed Paveway IV precision guided bombs against multiple military targets identified by careful intelligence analysis at three locations.

British aircraft targeted a ground control station inside a defensive position. This had been used to control Houthi drones, both attack and reconnaissance types, launched from further inland, operating over the sea against international shipping. The Typhoons also hit a number of targets at Bani.

Grant Shapps, the Defence Secretary, said: “The Houthis’ attacks on commercial and military vessels in the Red Sea are illegal and unacceptable and it is our duty to protect innocent lives and preserve freedom of navigation.

“That is why the RAF engaged in a third wave of proportionate and targeted strikes against Houthi military targets in Yemen. We acted alongside our US allies, with the support of many international partners, in self-defence and in accordance with international law.

“This is not an escalation. We have already successfully targeted launchers and storage sites involved in Houthi attacks, and I am confident that our latest strikes have further degraded the Houthis’ capabilities.

“Having recently met those British personnel stationed in the region, I know the dedication and professionalism with which they serve our nation’s Armed Forces and I would like to thank them for ensuring this operation was a success.” 

It is the third time that the round of joint strikes have been carried out by the US and UK, which were launched by ships and fighter jets.

A joint statement from Britain and the US on Saturday night said they said they targeted buried weapons storage facilities, missile systems and launchers, air defence systems and radars.

The strikes were “proportionate and necessary” to disrupt and degrade the Houthis’ abilities to strike international trade, the governments said.

They were “in response to a series of illegal, dangerous, and destabilising Houthi actions since previous coalition strikes on Jan 11 and 22, 2024, including the Jan 27 attack which set ablaze the Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker M/V Marlin Luanda”.

Australia, Bahrain,
 Denmark, Canada, the Netherlands and New Zealand also supported the action. 

The strikes follow an air assault in Iraq and Syria on Friday that targeted other Iranian-backed militias and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in retaliation for the drone strike that killed three US troops in Jordan last weekend.

The Houthi targets were in 13 different locations and were struck by US F/A-18 fighter jets from the USS Dwight D Eisenhower aircraft carrier and by the USS Gravely and the USS Carney Navy destroyers firing Tomahawk missiles from the Red Sea, the US officials told the Associated Press.

Democratic Senator Jack Reed praised US President Joe Biden for his action and said: “I support President Biden’s robust action. I am confident the Biden Administration will continue to respond and safeguard the American people.”

Lloyd Austin III, the US Secretary of Defence, said there would be further action and added: “This collective action sends a clear message to the Houthis that they will continue to bear further consequences if they do not end their illegal attacks on international shipping and naval vessels.

“We will not hesitate to defend lives and the free flow of commerce in one of the world’s most critical waterways.”

“These precision strikes are intended to disrupt and degrade the capabilities that the Houthis use to threaten global trade, and the lives of innocent mariners, and are in response to a series of illegal, dangerous, and destabilising Houthi actions,” the statement added.

“Today’s strike specifically targeted sites associated with the Houthis’ deeply buried weapons storage facilities, missile systems and launchers, air defence systems, and radars.

“The Houthis’ now more than 30 attacks on commercial vessels and naval vessels since mid-November constitute an international challenge. Recognising the broad consensus of the international community, our coalition of like-minded countries committed to upholding the rules-based order has continued to grow.”

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Army fails to meet recruitment targets at all training centres for five years

The Army has failed to meet its recruitment targets at all training centres for the past five years, the Ministry of Defence has revealed.

Figures released by the Government show that since 2018 three in four of the Army’s main basic training bases failed to meet targets every year.

The Army Foundation College Harrogate, the Infantry Training Centre Catterick, the Army Training Centre Pirbright and the Army Training Regiment Winchester were supposed to begin their training programmes with 44,111 recruits but only 35,638 began the courses. Of those around starting figures, 20 to 30 per cent would have dropped out through injury or choosing to leave.

The disclosure follows a parliamentary report by the defence select committee entitled “Ready For War”, which says that the Armed Forces are facing a recruitment and retention crisis – linked primarily to mission over-overstretch. The report says the Army is working at 130 per cent capacity, the Royal Navy has too many tasks and not enough ships and the RAF revealed that their operational sortie number had doubled in 12 months.

The report, which also criticises the Ministry of Defence for a lack of transparency evidence sessions with MPs, said that for every eight troops who leave the Armed Forces only five join.

Grant Shapps, the Defence Secretary, said on Friday that the public could “rule out” conscription and said the Army had seen almost double the number of recruits last month than in the same period last year. It is understood that 10,800 people signed up last month – more than double the monthly average of 5,300 last year.

However, recruiters are concerned about a “perfect storm” of low unemployment, allegations of bullying, sexual assault, suicide and rapes at training centres that over several years have caused a shortfall in the numbers of potential recruits.

MoD statistics released in a Freedom of Information request show that between 2015 and May 2023, at least 267 instructors at the training centres were charged with abuse-related offences including actual bodily and common assault.

In October last year North Yorkshire police said that 13 sexual offences had been reported at the Army Foundation College between 22 July 2022 and 17 August 2023, including nine reports of rape, two of sexual assault and two of voyeurism.

During 2021, there were 22 victims of sexual offences at the Harrogate college. In January 2023 one instructor, Cpl Simon Bartram, was sentenced to 20 months’ military detention, after being found guilty at court martial of sexual assault and eight counts of cruel or indecent disgraceful conduct.

Hundreds of recruits have also self-harmed and more than 600 have been treated for mental health problems, according to MoD figures.

The Army Foundation College trains the youngest soldiers in the Army who can join up aged just 16. The recruits spend 48 weeks at the college where they complete phase 1 of basic army training before moving on to other establishments.

The Harrogate centre was the only training base which started a training year with the correct number of troops, and that was in 2018-19 when it had a surplus of 85 personnel.

The Infantry Training Centre (ITC) in Catterick, which crucially supplies troops for the Army’s fighting regiments, such as the Paras and the Guards, has had a shortfall of troops joining up every year since 2018.

Last year was the worst in five for the ITC, which had 960 troops short of its training target of 2,492.

The Army Training Centre at Pirbright, which trains troops for regiments such as the Royal Corps of Signals, the Army Air Corps and the Royal Engineers, was more than 1,203 troops short last year.

The Army Training Regiment Winchester, which conducts basic training for a variety of units including the Adjutant’s General Corps and the Army Medical Corps, should have begun its training course with 1,034 personnel but only 593 started.

The figures were released in response to a parliamentary question tabled by the Labour MP Luke Pollard.

Colonel Phil Ingram, a former Army Intelligence Officer and Iraq War veteran, said: “The MoD has found itself in a perfect storm of a shortage of recruits compounded by allegations of abuse. Five years of missing recruiting and training targets is a shocking waste of taxpayers’ money. 

“A lack of ability to deliver, combined with a lack of accountability, seems to be a common theme across the Army and defence. It is time this stopped. If this happened in a business, the board would be sacked. Instead in the Army, they get promoted and given medals and we continue to wonder why our Army is in such a shocking state.”

An Army spokesperson said: “We continue to recruit the significant numbers of diverse talent needed to maintain a competitive advantage now and in the future.

“The Army achieved its recruitment targets in 2019-20 and 2020-21 and 98 per cent of the target in 2021-22, despite the challenges caused by pandemic lockdown restrictions.

“Despite a challenging recruitment environment, we continue to attract large numbers to a career in the British Army.”

Clapham chemical attack latest: Footage of police raid in hunt for suspect released

New footage has been released of police raiding a house in the hunt for the suspected chemical attacker Abdul Ezedi. 

Footage shows officers entering the residence in Newcastle and moving from room to room searching for Ezedi.

The Met said it had received “dozens of calls” and reports of “possible sightings” in relation to the investigation as it issued a fresh appeal for information.

Searches of five addresses in east London and Newcastle revealed empty containers with corrosive warnings on the labels. Forensic tests are now underway to see if the substances match those used in Wednesday’s attack in Clapham. 

Commander Jon Savell said: “We have received dozens of calls with information, including possible sightings, and every single piece of information has been recorded and forms part of our ongoing investigation.”

Watch: Machete-wielding youths clash in Nottingham city centre

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Jail for protesters who climb on war memorials

Protesters who climb on war memorials face prison and a £1,000 fine under a crackdown in the wake of pro-Palestinian demonstrations, ministers will announce this week.

Perpetrators will face three-month sentences and a fine under a legal change which James Cleverly, the Home Secretary, said would punish those intent on “insulting those who paid the ultimate price for their freedom to protest”.

Last November, footage of pro-Palestinian demonstrators clambering on the Royal Artillery Memorial in London sparked widespread outrage, with Rishi Sunak describing it as “affront to our Armed Forces”.

Mr Cleverly, who is a Royal Artillery reservist, said at the time that it was “clearly wrong” and “deeply disrespectful”.

However, the incident did not result in arrests, with the individuals allowed to go on their way after coming down from the monument.

Sir Mark Rowley, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, said that his officers were unable to take action because while it was “unfortunate” and “inflammatory in certain ways”, it was not against the law.

Defending his officers, he said: “That’s the nature of policing. It’s contentious. What the officer didn’t do was make up a law that it’s illegal to do something and make an arrest which would have been illegal, clearly.”

Following the case, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said the Government would “look at what further measures are needed so that the police can have confidence in taking action on this”.

Now, under an amendment due to be introduced to the Criminal Justice Bill, climbing on war memorials will become a specific public order offence in England and Wales.

The change to the law will form part of a wider plan to be unveiled this week aimed at tackling disorder at protests.

‘Causing damage’

Mr Cleverly said: “Recent protests have seen a small minority dedicated to causing damage and insulting those who paid the ultimate price for their freedom to protest.

“Peaceful protest is fundamental in our county, but climbing on our war memorials is an insult to these monuments of remembrance and cannot continue.

“That is why I am giving police the powers they need to ensure they have the tools to keep order and peace on our streets.”

Tackling disruptive protests has risen up the agenda because of the mass demonstrations against Israel’s invasion of Gaza in response to the Oct 7 Hamas attack.

On Saturday, thousands of protesters descended on London for another pro-Palestine march.

Some marchers were filmed chanting “Yemen, Yemen make us proud, turn another ship round” in an apparent show of support for Houthi attacks on vessels in the Red Sea.

Other demonstrators were photographed holding signs displaying anti-Semitic tropes, including one claiming that “our media, TV, radio and government are controlled by Zionists”.

Another sign claimed that “the BBC is an arm of the Zionist propaganda machine”.