Falkland Isles 'have been left vulnerable'
BRITAIN has left the Falkland Islands vulnerable to another invasion by Argentina, a former Plymouth-based commander of the 1982 conflict has said.
Major-General Julian Thompson told The Times it would be "end of story" if Argentine forces managed to take the British base on East Falkland after Government cuts left the Royal Navy without an aircraft carrier to defend its South Atlantic territories.
General Thompson, who commanded Plymouth's 3 Commando Brigade during the Falklands War, said: "The Argentines have a marine brigade. They've got a parachute brigade and some good special forces. All they've got to do is get those guys on to the islands for long enough to destroy the (RAF) Typhoon jets and that's the end of it."
With the airfield gone, the only way for Britain to send reinforcements would be by sea — as Margaret Thatcher did successfully 30 years ago. This time, however, any taskforce would be without aircraft carriers and the jets to fly off them.
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"You have got to take your own air support with you and you can't without a carrier. End of story," the retired commander said.
General Thompson's warning comes in the run up to the 30th anniversary of the 74-day conflict, which began on April 2, 1982, and is set against heightening diplomatic tension between London and Buenos Aires over the sovereignty of the Falklands.
Buenos Aires sees the islands, which it calls Las Malvinas, as an extension of Argentine land, while Britain believes that the 3,000 people who live on the Falklands should be allowed to choose their sovereignty. Both countries have traded accusations of "colonialism" over their claim on the Falklands.
General Thompson said he thought that President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of Argentina was doing everything she could to coerce David Cameron into opening a dialogue on sovereignty. And he added that an Argentinean attack could come several years down the line when tensions over the issue had apparently subsided: "You plan this over a period of months or years and you lower the temperature," he said. "You say: 'We've given up, okay, we'll now co-operate with you.' Everyone's guard is then down and, whack, you go in and take the airfield."
The present commander of British forces in the South Atlantic, Brigadier Bill Aldridge, has previously said he was confident that he had enough resources to defeat any new attempt by Argentina to take the islands.
Britain has about 1,300 soldiers, sailors and airmen and women based at Mount Pleasant. Four Eurofighter Typhoon fast jets patrol the skies.