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Exercise helped military to plan for Iraq

Exercise helped military to plan for Iraq

Lessons learned from a massive military exercise in the Omani desert in 2001 have helped to get Britain's Armed Forces ready and able to take part in possible military action against Iraq, Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram has said.

The Minister was responding to a report by the House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts on the Ministry of Defence's handling of Exercise Saif Sareea II.

It was a major bilateral military exercise held in Oman in September and October 2001. Its name means 'swift sword' in Arabic.

"Exercise Saif Sareea was a great achievement," said Mr Ingram. "But even its scale has been put into perspective by the current deployment of British troops to the Gulf.

"The precision and speed of the deployment currently underway underlines the need for exercises. We must always test our plans against harsh ground conditions. We need to find out how our procedures, people and equipment perform in the real world."

Since the exercise took place, the Ministry of Defence has implemented the important lessons it learned from the exercise, he added.

"Our clear focus rests on ensuring that all steps are taken to prepare our personnel for operations. Challenger 2 and AS90 are highly capable equipments, and will be modified for the desert conditions they will encounter. Similarly, we have taken action to ensure that troops have the right personal kit, including boots.

"As the Committee points out, plans for the exercise did change. The security environment in which we operate is not static. Priorities change, and within these real-world constraints, as has been recognised, the exercise was a success and met all of its key objectives."

Ensuring the safety, security and operational success of troops is always the top priority, the Minister said, and major exercises like Saif Sareea help to deliver that objective.

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