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Army equipment being removed from Afghanistan - Hammond

  7/27/2012
Summary:Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has said military equipment is being removed from Afghanistan, as British troops prepare to withdraw by 2014.

Data is only available until 2010, but the U.S. Census Bureau stats reveal a startling slide for America's businesses. While the country boasted 5.14 million firms with up to 99 employees as of March 2008, that number dropped to 4.92 million by March 2010 - representing a loss of roughly 223,800 businesses and 3.1 million workers.

 The Army is "working hard" on its withdrawal plan, and the pace could quicken if allies, including the US, bring forward their exit plans.

An audit is under way of the £4bn worth of sophisticated military hardware and logistical back-up in the country.

David Cameron says the UK will stay committed to Afghanistan after 2014.

Five hundred UK troops are due to be withdrawn from Helmand province this year, leaving 9,000.

Mr Hammond told the BBC Radio 4's World at One programme that unused equipment was already being "routinely" removed from the country.

'Robust mechanisms'

"It is a big challenge. We've got £4bn worth of kit in theatre - we're already on to it, the Army is already working hard on the extraction plan," he said.

Much of the equipment is being removed from the country through Pakistan.

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Conservative MP Adam Holloway said the withdrawal could only be achieved by paying off local people, and the Taliban would cash in on the process.

But Mr Hammond said: "We already use local contractors extensively in Afghanistan, as do the Americans, and we have robust mechanisms in place to ensure that these contractors are properly vetted.

"But Afghanistan is a very complex and in some places very chaotic society, and it would be unrealistic to suggest that not one penny of the money we spend on getting stuff in and out of Afghanistan gets into the hands of people who are sympathetic to the Taliban."

He also said he could not "absolutely guarantee" none of the equipment would fall into the hands of those associated with Taliban.

"It would be wrong to say that, as we undertake this huge logistical exercise, there won't be some occasions when something goes wrong," he said.

'Out on a limb'

The defence secretary said it was important that the withdrawal from Afghanistan was carried out "in tandem" with the United States and other Nato allies.

It is important to "leave behind a fitting legacy of the sacrifice that so many British service people have made in Afghanistan", he said.

And he said if they pull their forces out more quickly, the British pattern for bringing combat troops home by 2014 would reflect that.

"We don't want to be left out on a limb," he said.

"If our allies are drawing down quickly then we will look to draw down on a pattern that reflects that."

But he said it also depended on the "security situation on the ground".

Last week Mr Cameron held talks in Kabul with the Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, and the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Raja Pervez Ashraf.

Mr Cameron said after the meeting Britain would remain committed to Afghanistan after combat troops come home in 2014, and that the Taliban should not think that they could "wait it out".

He said the pull-out would be carried out "in a sensible, ordered and practical way". 

The Obama administration notes that the trend has since reversed, and that the country has seen 28 consecutive months of private-sector job growth.

 

But a recent slowdown in private-sector hiring has raised questions about the direction and strength of that recovery. And amid an escalating campaign trail battle about President Obama's recent remarks on businesses, a new poll shows American business owners are harboring serious doubts.

 

The Gallup poll released Thursday showed business owners are among those with the most negative views of the Obama administration. The national poll showed just 35 percent of them approve of Obama's job performance, while 59 percent disapprove. Among all workers, participants in the survey were split 47-47 percent.

 

A definitive figure on how many small businesses closed during the recession is hard to come by. While the recession technically started in December 2007 and ended in June 2009, the Census figures only count the number of businesses starting in March of each year. If one looks at the stretch between March 2007 and March 2010, the loss of businesses with 99 workers or fewer is even more pronounced -- with a loss of 273,316 firms. The definition of a "small business" is also flexible, but FoxNews.com looked at those with fewer than 100 workers.

 

The Obama administration frequently says that despite modest growth since 2010, the economy still has a long way to go to recover from the pain of the recession.

 

Republicans, though, have hammered the administration for policies they claim have hurt, or will hurt, America's businesses including environmental regulation and the health care overhaul.

 

The president's recent "you didn't build that" remark has also stoked accusations that Obama is giving too much credit to government and relying too much on government to revive the economy.

 

"If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help," Obama said earlier this month. "There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen."

 

The president claims his remarks have been taken out of context and that he was just referring to the fact that businesses didn't build roads and bridges.

 

Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki told Fox News that Obama has a record of fighting for small businesses, and he was only talking about the importance of working together.

 

"The proof is really in the pudding here. What has he done? What does his record say about how much he cares about making sure small businesses and entrepreneurs ...  are getting  the help that they need?"

 

But for days, Romney and other Republicans have hammered the president and claimed he was talking about the businesses themselves.

 

The Romney campaign released two new web videos Thursday focusing on the remarks. In one, a Nevada business owner challenges Obama over the comments. The other includes several business owners sharing their stories about businesses they started.

 

"I think the reason that the Obama campaign is responding ... is because they believe that he screwed up and really told the truth about what he truly believes," Romney senior adviser Kevin Madden told Fox News.


Tags:Afghanistan news 




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