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History > 2009 > UK > War > Afghanistan (I)


 

 

The cortege of hearses carrying the bodies of eight British soldiers

killed in a single 24-hour period in Afghanistan

pass mourners lining the street on Tuesday July 14, 2009

in Wootton Bassett, England.

 

AP Photo/Simon Dawson

 

The Boston GlobeThe Big Picture > In Afghanistan, Part Two        July 17, 2009

http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2009/07/in_afghanistan_part_two.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gordon Brown

makes suprise visit

to Afghanistan

Prime minister spends night
at British military base
and holds talks with President Hamid Karzai

 

Sunday 13 December 2009
11.36 GMT
Guardian.co.uk
Staff and agencies
This article was published on guardian.co.uk
at 11.36 GMT on Sunday 13 December 2009.
It was last modified
at 11.54 GMT on Sunday 13 December 2009.

 

Gordon Brown made a surprise visit to Afghanistan today to meet British troops and attempt to patch up his fractious relationship with the country's president, Hamid Karzai.

The prime minister said the next few months would be "critical" and urged the Afghan government to take a bigger role in fighting the Taliban.

The visit included an overnight stay at Kandahar airfield, the coalition headquarters for the region, wherethe Brown stayed in a pre-fabricated, corrugated shed, surrounded by concrete blast walls. There was a nearby concrete shelter for him to repair to in the event of a rocket attack on the camp.

It was the first time a British leader had stayed overnight in either Afghanistan or Iraq, and came at the start of a surprise pre-Christmas visit to the troops.

Brown said: "I wanted to be here with the troops to thank them for what they are doing. I wanted to see what it was like working with them."

In a joint press conference Brown and Karzai denied suggestions of a rift, claiming he and Karzai had always had "the best relations". Karzai said he was "happy and honoured" to call the prime minister a friend. It was a "very, very trustworthy relationship".

Brown has been prominent among world leaders in voicing criticism of Karzai's government, following his August re-election in a vote marred by widespread fraud.

The Afghan leader hit back in an interview last week, saying comments from Brown were "very unfortunate and very artificial. It is extremely insulting".

Asked this morning about corruption in the Kabul administration, Brown said Karzai had drawn up plans that would include improving governance that he would present to the London conference on Aghanistan next month.

"I do want to reassure families of those who are serving in Afghanistan and families mourning people lost in Afghanistan that the cause that we are fighting comes directly to the streets of Britain," Brown said.

Karzai said he was "very, very sorry" when he saw British troops killed or wounded in Afghanistan and said he was aware of the "consequences" in Britain.

Brown was briefed late last night and earlier this morning by senior military staff in Kandahar as well as meeting regular troops and inspecting new equipment.

Last week saw the 100th British soldier killed in Afghanistan this year, prompting further controversy and debate over Britain's role in the country. This year has been the bloodiest for British forces since the Falklands War in 1982.

Brown said today he was "more confident" about the conflict following recent additions of equipment and the increases in troop numbers announced by himself and the US president, Barack Obama.

He paid tribute to the troops' "bravery, professionalism and dedication". "I know this has been a difficult year," he said, acknowledging that casualties have been "high". But he maintained that morale among the troops was good.

About 1,500 improvised explosive devices have been detected and dismantled in the past six months, the PM added, as efforts have been stepped up to counter the threat.

He went on: "I think the next few months are obviously critical. We need to show there is support for our forces back in Britain, which I know there is, and a determination to take on the Taliban."

    Gordon Brown makes suprise visit to Afghanistan, G, 13.12.2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/dec/13/gordon-brown-afghanistan-troops-karzai

 

 

 

 

 

100th British soldier killed

in Afghanistan this year

 

Monday 7 December 2009
20.56 GMT
Guardian.co.uk
Richard Norton-Taylor
This article was published on guardian.co.uk at 20.56 GMT on Monday 7 December 2009.
A version appeared on p1 of the Top stories section of the Guardian on Tuesday 8 December 2009.

 

A member of the 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment was killed today in Helmand province, southern Afghanistan, taking the UK's military death toll there this year to 100.

The soldier died as a result of gunshot wounds in Nad-e-Ali, an area British forces have been trying to secure over the past few months, defence officials said. The Ministry of Defence said his next of kin had been told.

Almost twice as many British soldiers have been killed in Helmand so far this year as in the whole of last year, and 2009 has been the bloodiest year for British forces since the Falklands war in 1982. Responding to the death, Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, chief of the defence staff, said: "Our people face a difficult and dangerous task in Afghanistan, and 2009 has been a particularly challenging year."

The total number of British service personnel who have died since the start of operations in Afghanistan in 2001 is now 237. As well as the fatalities, 145 British troops have received life-threatening injuries so far this year, compared with 65 last year, and more than 1,000 troops have been admitted to field hospitals this year. Improvised explosive devices have been the deadliest threat.

With more British troops being deployed to Helmand, ministers have warned of the likelihood of a growing number of casualties. Gordon Brown last week committed another 500 British troops to the country before President Barack Obama's announcement of a surge of 30,000 more US troops. The prime minister, who has said a "very substantial part" of the US surge will be in Helmand, said tonight that his thoughts were with the families and friends of all the 100 British personnel who have died this year. "We will never forget those who have died fighting for our country and we must also honour their memory," he said.

General Sir David Richards, head of the army, paid tribute to the latest victim, adding: "The temptation to judge this essential campaign by casualties alone undervalues the tremendous efforts of our forces and our allies, and the progress they are making."

Richards said there were "real grounds for optimism". "We have made substantial progress in Helmand and throughout Afghanistan. Political resolve is firm; the necessary resources and manpower will be flowing into Afghanistan to allow us to do the job." The prime minister has been under pressure to justify the UK's presence in Afghanistan but has pledged not to "walk away" from the conflict, which he says is vital in the fight against global terrorism. He has said there is no question of British withdrawal until Afghan forces can take over security for themselves.

Stirrup said last week that declining public support for Britain's military presence in Afghanistan was more damaging to the morale of troops fighting on the frontline than IEDs or the Taliban. After the US, the UK and Nato allies agreed to deploy tens of thousands more troops to Afghanistan, Stirrup told the Royal United Services Institute: "It's scarcely surprising that the enemy is reacting and reacting violently. We're in the middle of a long, hard fight."

In his statement last night, Stirrup said: "Each death is a sad loss, and we mourn every one … We also remember, though, what they have achieved through their sacrifice this year. Our armed forces have brought security to more of the population of Helmand, and have helped the Afghan national army to develop its own capabilities to protect the people."

Bob Ainsworth, the defence secretary, said it had been a challenging year for British forces in Afghanistan, adding: "Our presence is vital in preventing it from once again becoming a haven for terrorists who would seek to threaten the UK."

The Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, said: "Everyone now hopes that the new strategy will succeed so that British soldiers can come back home with their heads held high and in the knowledge that their sacrifices have not been in vain."

The number of UK fatalities in Afghanistan totalled just five from 2001-05. In 2006, when British troops first deployed in Helmand, 39 were killed. Forty-two were killed in 2007 and 51 last year.

    100th British soldier killed in Afghanistan this year, G, 7.12.2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/dec/07/100th-british-soldier-killed-afghanistan

 

 

 

 

 

Soldier killed in Afghanistan

as veterans remember war dead

 

November 5, 2009
Philippe Naughton
From Times Online

 

Another British serviceman was killed in Helmand province today even as hundreds of veterans and relatives of fallen soldiers gathered for the annual Field of Remembrance at Westminster Abbey.

The soldier, from the 3rd Battalion The Rifles, was killed in an explosion near Sangin this morning. His was the sixth British death in Afghanistan in 48 hours after after the murder of five servicemen at an Afghan police checkpoint two days ago.

Lieutenant Colonel David Wakefield, spokesman for Task Force Helmand, said: “It is with deep sorrow I must inform you that a British soldier, one of our own, was killed this morning.

“He was from 3rd Battalion The Rifles and died in an explosion in Helmand Province. A fellow soldier taken from us in this conflict. His sacrifice will not be forgotten.”

More than 90 service personnel have been killed in Afghanistan this year, nearly double the number who died last year.

The death toll has progressively worsened since British troops were first sent to Helmand in 2006, with 39 being killed that year, followed by 42 in 2007, 51 last year and 93 up to November 5 this year.

Among the names on 60,000 crosses planted at the Abbey are the five British soldiers killed by a rogue Afghan policeman on Tuesday.

For the first time those killed in the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have been given a dedicated plot among the sea of poppies, photographs and personal messages. The massed ranks of 234 crosses representing lives lost in Afghanistan and 179 in Iraq provided a stark reminder of the continued casualties being sustained by the armed forces.

Veterans and mourners were joined the Duke of Edinburgh in a two-minute silence to honour the dead.

Also among those being remembered was Staff Sergeant Olaf Schmid, an explosive expert whose body was flown back to the UK as the ceremony was taking place. Staff Sergeant Schmid was killed on Saturday while trying to make safe an improvised explosive device in the Sangin region of Helmand province.

In Cowdenbeath, Fife, hundreds gathered for the funeral of Corporal Thomas Mason, of The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, who died several weeks after being wounded by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.

Thousands of crosses have already been planted in 260 plots, representing regiments and other associations of the British and Commonwealth Forces, by the Royal British Legion Poppy Factory. Each bears the name of a fallen serviceman or woman and a poppy and the plot is open for the public to add their own, with a personal message, until November 14.

The Duke planted his own cross after Sara Jones, president of the Poppy Factory and widow of Colonel H Jones, who won the Victoria Cross during the Falklands conflict, read the exhortation to remembrance.

Prayers were led by the Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr John Hall, Household Cavalry trumpeters played from the parapet of St Margaret’s Church and the silence began when nearby Big Ben chimed 11am.

    Soldier killed in Afghanistan as veterans remember war dead, Ts, 5.11.2009, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article6904927.ece

 

 

 

 

 

'Legendary' Sergeant Major

was to be made officer

on day he was killed by policeman

 

November 5, 2009
From Times Online
Michael Evans, Defence Editor

 

The Regimental Sergeant Major of the Grenadier Guards who was killed by the renegade Afghan policeman, was due to have been told on the day he died that he had been awarded a commission as an officer.

Warrant Officer Class One Darren “Daz” Chant, 40, regarded by his comrades in the Grenadier Guards as a legendary figure, was to have become a captain.

The 6ft sergeant-major had also been on a shortlist of three to become the most senior NCO in the Army - Academy Sergeant Major at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.

His reputation as a courageous soldier was enhanced by the revelation that he saved the life of a Grenadier Guardsman whose leg had been blown off after an explosion in Helmand.

“Drill sergeant Daz Chant put me on his shoulders and ran more than a mile to the point where the chopper had flown to evacuate me. I owe him everything,” Guardsman Scott Blaney, 22, said.

“I’m a big bloke and I don’t know how Daz managed to carry me on his back for nearly a mile without falling over once,” he told The Sun.

WO1 Chant was present at the reinforced checkpoint where the killings occurred on Tuesday because the Grenadier Guards battle group, recently arrived in Helmand for its six-month tour, had identified the need for increased mentoring of the Afghan National Police within its area of operations.

“WO1 Chant and his team were sent to a police checkpoint of vital importance as it provided protection to the bazaar area of Nad-e Ali where the battle group forward operating base was located,” the Ministry of Defence said.

The revered sergeant major served in the formidable Pathfinders Platoon, the Parachute Regiment reconnaissance force, from 1997 to 1999, before being posted to Sandhurst as a Colour Sergeant instructor. Only the best NCOs are selected as instructors at Sandhurst.

He was there until 2003 and “made a name for himself with his straight talking, no-nonsense approach to training and soldiering”.

As the most senior warrant officer in the Grenadier Guards for the tour of Afghanistan which began in September, “he was a natural figurehead for all Grenadiers and was unflinching in his pursuit of the highest possible standards”.

“WO1 Chant was carved from the very rock that forms the foundations of a regiment. He was a role model for those beneath him and was an invaluable colleague for anyone that worked alongside him. The day before WO1 Chant was killed it was announced that he had been awarded a commission in the Grenadiers as an officer. It is a tragedy that he was due to be informed of his success on the day he was killed,” the MoD said.

WO1 Chant who was born in Walthamstow in East London, leaves behind his wife Nausheen “Sheenie, who is pregnant, and three children from a previous marriage, Connor, 16, Adam, ten, and Victoria, eight.

Mrs Chant said: “I am devastated by the loss of my husband. Our unborn son will never meet his father, but he will know him through his legacy. For whether in uniform or out, his incomparable courage and selflessness humbled all those who knew and loved him. His famed sense of humour lightened any situation. I will miss my best friend and nothing will fill the void he has left, my darling Darren. A natural born leader who led from the front. I am immensely proud to say he was my husband.”

His father John, speaking on behalf of Darren’s ex-wife Connie and their three children, said: “The whole world should know that Darren Chant was the best father any child could have wished for. He adored and lived for his children. He strived to be the best at everything he did. He was very passionate about the military and believed the British Army was doing a good job in Afghanistan. He was a first class soldier, always putting the needs of his men before himself. He was always the first to volunteer.”

“We feel cheated as we know that we will never experience his quick wit and dry sense of humour again. His loss has devastated everyone who knew him and he will be missed and loved forever,” he said.

As tributes were made to all five soldiers killed on Tuesday, Downing Street said Gordon Brown would deliver a “major speech” on Afghanistan tomorrow, although there was no immediate information about its contents.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman repeated Mr Brown’s assertion that the Taleban claimed responsibility for the killing of the five British soldiers.

Paying tribute to the five men, Bob Ainsworth, the Defence Secretary, said: “I was so very sorry to hear of the deaths of these five brave soldiers, killed in the course of their duties in Afghanistan. That they were killed by one of those they were working alongside is a particular tragedy.”

The body of an explosives expert killed while defusing a bomb in Afghanistan also returned home today.

Staff Sergeant Olaf Schmid, 30, died on Saturday while trying to make safe an improvised explosive device in the Sangin region of Helmand province.

He was commanding an improvised explosive device disposal team (IEDD), conducting what the MoD described as a “manual route search” to clear devices near a base.

Sergeant Schmid’s body was repatriated this morning through RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire for a private ceremony at the base’s chapel.

 

 

 

Killed by Afghan policeman

Sergeant Matthew Telford, of the Grenadier Guards, had been temporarily employed as a mentor to the Afghan National Police (ANP). As the Regimental Police Sergeant he was perfectly placed to work with such a team drawn from soldiers of the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards and the Royal Military Police. The team had been tasked with mentoring a number of ANP officers at the checkpoint. Sergeant Telford, 37, from Grimbsy, leaves a wife, Kerry, and two sons, Harry and Callum. His family said: “Matt was a larger than life character, a gentle giant of a man.”

Guardsman James Major, 18, of the Grenadier Guards, born in Grimsby, leaves behind his mother Kim, father Adrian, brothers Lewis and Daniel and sister Paige. “Jimmy was a tremendous son. He was proud to be a soldier and died doing a job he loved. We are devastated by the loss of Jimmy,” the family said.

Corporal Nicholas Charles Webster-Smith, 24, of the Royal Military Police, who lived in Brackley in Northamptonshire, leaves a partner, Emma Robinson. His family said: “An irreplaceable son, brother, boyfriend and friend. One of the most loving, generous, kind-hearted men you could meet.”

Corporal Steven Boote, 22, of the Royal Military Police from Birkenhead, Liverpool, was a member of the TA and leaves a long-term girlfriend, Emma Murray. She and his family said they were proud of him. “Your cheeky smile would fill everyone with happiness. Steven I love you so much. You are my rock, my refuge and I will love and miss you more than words can say,” Ms Murray said.

    'Legendary' Sergeant Major was to be made officer on day he was killed by policeman, Ts, 5.11.2009, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/Afghanistan/article6904458.ece

 

 

 

 

 

Five British soldiers shot dead

by rogue Afghan policeman

 

November 4, 2009
From Times Online
Jerome Starkey and Tom Coghlan in Kabul

 

Five British soldiers have been shot dead after a rogue Afghan policeman turned a heavy machinegun against a British training team inside a checkpoint in Helmand Province.

The soldiers, three from the Grenadier Guards and two from the Royal Military Police, died in the village of Shin Kalay in Nad-e’Ali district of Helmand Province yesterday afternoon. Six British soldiers were injured in the same incident, several of them seriously. Two Afghan policemen, including the commander of the checkpost, were also injured before their assailant managed to escape.

Western military officials in Afghanistan told The Times that the British training mentoring team, which consisted of two specialist trainers from the Royal Military Police and 14 Grenadier Guards, had just returned from a patrol with Afghan policemen when the incident occurred.

The mentoring team had been working continuously with the same 15 Afghan police at checkpoint Blue 25 for more than two weeks without previous incident. They were part of an operation designed to extend government influence into the north-west of Nad Ali, an area of the district that has a notably strong Taleban presence.

Abdul Ahad Helmandwal, the head of the district council in Nad Ali district, told The Times that the Afghan police and their British mentors were drinking tea together when the firing began.

"He first fired on the commander of the police and his deputy then on the British soldiers. He escaped on a motorbike," said Mr Helmandwal.

One military official told The Times that the British troops were undertaking post-patrol administration and resting when the attack began. All would have had a loaded weapon to hand, but they were clearly not expecting an attack inside their base, and may not have been wearing body armour.

"Without warning one of the ANP (Afghan National Policemen), potentially in concert with another, picked up his weapon and started firing," he said.

A tribal elder from Nad-e Ali said the rogue policeman, who was originally from Musa Qala in northern Helmand and named by local people as Gulbaddin, attacked the British troops with a PK heavy machine gun.

"He had been working for the police for two years and he graduated from the police academy a year ago," he said. "He was from the Alozai tribe."

Most of the police in Nad-e Ali are Noorzai tribesmen. A spokesman for the US-led training mission said all police in the district had undergone an intensive course, known as Focused District Development, within the last year.

Locals said Gulbaddin had been working for a checkpoint commander in Nad-e Ali called Issaqzai but eight days ago he abandoned his position over a dispute and approached a second commander called Manan, based in a clinic in the village of Shin Kalay.

"Manan said he didn't have space for any more police but he agreed to go and speak to Issaqzai on Gulbaddin's behalf," the elder said.

"The British soldiers knew Manan and they trust him. But yesterday, it was around 2pm after prayers, they had just come back from an operation and Gulbaddin shot the British with a PK [heavy machine gun].

"Manan climbed up onto the roof to see what was going on and he was shot in the leg. Then Manan's deputy Khairullah shot Gulbaddin. He was wounded in the leg but he escaped. He limped along a wall. 100m outside the checkpoint it's Taliban control."

Sources close to the investigation said Gulbaddin may have been high on heroin at the time of the attack. It has been suggested the killer may have had links to the Taleban.

A military official in Afghanistan said: "You can imagine how we feel about this. We are after him – no stone will be left unturned getting after this bloke. This was a bolt from the blue. Two Afghan police were shot as well and we were getting on very well with them, as it should be. This was not a mass revolt it appears to have been a rogue individual."

If the culprit turns out to be a Taleban recruit not weeded out by the vetting process, the whole strategy of partnership between the British and Afghan security forces, the key element of the campaign in Helmand could be undermined, analysts warned. The killing comes a month after the killing of two American soldiers by a policeman in Maidan Wardak.

The wounded were airlifted to the British field hospital at Camp Bastion using Chinook helicopters and a US Black Hawk. Ambulances took the injured from the helipad to the emergency department, where a large group of hospital medics and consultants was waiting to treat them.

The two Afghan casualties were evacuated by the ANP to the hospital at Bost in Lashkar Gah.

The massacre makes 2009 the bloodiest year for the armed forces since the Falklands War more than two decades ago. Up until now, the worst period since the Falklands was 2007, when 89 members of the armed forces died on active service. The latest deaths bring this year’s figure to 94.

The death toll of British forces in Afghanistan since the conflict began in 2001 now stands at 229, 198 of them killed in action.

Gordon Brown said: "The death of five brave soldiers in a single incident is a terrible loss.

"My thoughts, condolences and sympathies go to their families, loved ones and colleagues. I know that the whole country too will mourn their loss."

    Five British soldiers shot dead by rogue Afghan policeman, Ts, 4.11.2009, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/Afghanistan/article6902365.ece

 

 

 

 

 

Two British soldiers killed

in Afghanistan named by MoD

Sergeant Stuart Millar, 40, from Inverness
and Private Kevin Elliott, 24, from Dundee,
died in a blast while on foot patrol in Lashkar Gah district,
in southern Helmand yesterday morning

 

Tuesday 1 September 2009
18.51 BST
Guardian.co.uk
Robert Booth and agencies
This article was first published on guardian.co.uk
at 18.51 BST on Tuesday 1 September 2009.
It was last updated
at 18.51 BST on Tuesday 1 September 2009.

 

Two soldiers who were killed while on foot patrol in Afghanistan yesterday were named this evening by the Ministry of Defence.

Sergeant Stuart Millar, 40, from Inverness and Private Kevin Elliott, 24, from Dundee, died in a blast while on foot patrol in Lashkar Gah district, in southern Helmand yesterday morning.

The pair were from The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland.

Their deaths bring the number of British military personnel killed in the country since operations began in 2001 to 210.

Spokesman for Task Force Helmand, Lieutenant Colonel Nick Richardson, said: "Everyone in Task Force Helmand is deeply saddened by the deaths of these two brave soldiers. While there are no words that can ease their loss, our heartfelt sympathies go to their families, friends and fellow soldiers at this extremely difficult time."

    Two British soldiers killed in Afghanistan named by MoD, G, 1.9.2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/sep/01/two-soldiers-killed-afghanistan-named

 

 

 

 

 

PM signals end to Taliban offensive



Monday, 27 July 2009
Press Association
The Independent

 

Gordon Brown today signalled the end of the bloody offensive to drive back the Taliban in Afghanistan.

 

The Prime Minister insisted that Operation Panther's Claw had not been "in vain", despite the deaths of 20 British troops over the past month.


"The efforts of our troops in Helmand have been nothing short of heroic," Mr Brown told the Evening Standard. "There has been a tragic human cost. But this has not been in vain."

 

Mr Brown said it was now time to "commemorate" the British troops who have died in Afghanistan.

 

Twenty British personnel have been killed this month alone in Afghanistan - with 189 having died since the start of operations eight years ago.


During a constituency visit in Fife today, the Prime Minister said it has been "one of the most difficult summers" since troops went into Afghanistan.


He said: "Now that Operation Panther's Claw has shown that it can bring success and the first phase of that operation is over, it's time to commemorate all those soldiers who have given their lives and to thank all our British forces for the determination and professionalism and courage that they've shown.


"What we have actually done is make land secure for about 100,000 people.


"What we've done is push back the Taliban - and what we've done also is to start to break that chain of terror that links the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan to the streets of Britain.


"And I'm very proud of what our forces have achieved over the last few weeks - indeed for all the time they've been in Afghanistan."


He also echoed Foreign Secretary David Miliband's call earlier today for talks with more moderate Taliban elements.


Mr Brown said: "Our strategy has always been to complement the military action that we've got to take to clear the Taliban, to threaten al Qaida in its bases - while at the same time we put in more money to build the Afghan forces, the troops, the police.


"We build up the institutions in society in Afghanistan so there's strong local government.


"We help give people a stake in the future of Afghanistan and at the same time we try to bring over those elements that can now work with the democratic process.


"So, it's part of a strategy that involves Pakistan and Afghanistan as well.


"It's a civilian and military strategy and that's the way we will succeed in the long run - by letting the Afghan people take more control of their own affairs by building up their army and building up their police."

 

The first stage of the operation in the troubled southern province drew to a close as senior ministers urged the stepping up of efforts to engage moderate Taliban elements.

 

Foreign Secretary David Miliband said the insurgency was "divided", with many of those fighting against international forces doing so for "pragmatic" rather than ideological reasons.


International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander admitted there were concerns about holding talks while fierce combat was taking place.


"It is a difficult message for politicians to talk about the issues of reconciliation and reintegration when British troops are fighting the Taliban," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.


"But I have confidence in the good judgment of the British people. I think people recognise from the experience of places like Northern Ireland that it is necessary to put military pressure on the Taliban while at the same time holding out the prospect that there can be a political process that can follow, whereby those that are willing to renunciate (sic) violence can follow a different path."


Downing Street stressed that the Government had not changed its position, and would only deal with Taliban elements who were willing to "renounce violence".

    PM signals end to Taliban offensive, I, 27.7.2009, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/pm-signals-end-to-taliban-offensive-1762287.html

 

 

 

 

 

More than 150 UK casualties

in a week in Helmand

• Figure in addition to 17 soldiers killed this month
• Field hospital has to break rules to treat wounded

 

Tuesday 21 July 2009
Richard Norton-Taylor
The Guardian
This article was first published on guardian.co.uk at 00.05 BST on Tuesday 21 July 2009.
It appeared in the Guardian on Tuesday 21 July 2009 on p6 of the UK news section.
It was last updated at 00.05 BST on Tuesday 21 July 2009.

 

Recent fighting in Afghanistan led to a record number of British casualties since the start of the war against the Taliban, with more than 150 badly wounded within a week, defence officials said yesterday.

The figures are in addition to the 17 soldiers killed this month so far. The latest, the victim of a roadside bomb while on foot patrol near Sangin on Sunday, was Corporal Joey Etchells, 22, from 2nd Battalion the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers. It was his third deployment to Afghanistan. He told his local paper, the Oldham Evening Chronicle, last month: "It's a great job and a big responsibility to have out here, but I really enjoy it. I can't see myself ever wanting to do anything else."

His death takes the British toll in Afghanistan since 2001 to 186.

More than 157 soldiers were treated at the field hospital at Camp Bastion in Helmand province last week, according to army medics. Numbers were so high that medics have been forced to break their own rules by accepted more wounded than the hospital is designed to take.

"The last few weeks have been an extremely busy period. There have been injuries like you've probably never seen or experienced," one medic told BBC Radio 4's Today programme, referring to the horrific wounds explosions roadside bombs can inflict.

The latest figures officially published by the Ministry of Defence reveal a significant increase in the number of wounded even before the latest fighting, which has produced the highest recorded so far. Forty-six soldiers were admitted to field hospitals in Afghanistan in June, compared with 24 in May and 11 in April. The figures are to some extent seasonal, they were higher last summer than in the winter.

With more than 150 admitted last week, the next set of official figures will reveal a huge increase over last month's total.

The MoD's figures do not give a detailed rundown of the severity and nature of the injuries to British soldiers. But they say that 13 were "very seriously" or "seriously injured" last month, descriptions which include life-threatening injuries and amputations. More than 200 soldiers have suffered such injuries since British forces began their campaign in Helmand three years ago.

Most of the deaths and serious injuries in recent months have been the result of roadside bombs or improvised explosive devices becoming increasingly sophisticated and deadly.

General Sir Richard Dannatt, the head of the army, has said electronic countermeasures and explosives experts are a priority in Helmand along with helicopters.

Commanders have been asking for more helicopters ever since 2006. They would avoid British troops having to make more dangerous tasks by travelling on roads in some missions. But the government argues that helicopters would not have saved those soldiers killed undertaking other missions, such as foot patrols.

Two RAF crew members were being assessed in hospital yesterday after a Tornado jet fighter crashed during takeoff at Kandahar airfield, east of Helmand.

A spokeswoman said the crash was not the result of enemy action.

Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, Nato's secretary general, who retires next week, said last night that, despite the casualties, coalition forces needed to stay.

"If we were to walk away, Afghanistan would fall to the Taliban, with devastating effect for the people there – women in particular," he said in a speech to the thinktank Chatham House, adding: "Pakistan would suffer the consequences, with all that implies for international security."

    More than 150 UK casualties in a week in Helmand, G, 21.7.2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/jul/21/record-uk-casualties-helmand-taliban

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gerald Scarfe

Sunday Times

July 19 2009

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/article6719291.ece

Prime Minister Gordon Brown

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Revealed:

scandal of UK's grounded helicopter fleet

Chinooks out of service
because they are too sophisticated to be deployed

 

Friday, 17 July 2009
The Independent
By Kim Sengupta defence correspondent

 

The Ministry of Defence is downgrading the capabilities of eight Chinook helicopters because they are too sophisticated, it emerged yesterday.

Twenty-four thousand separate pieces of wiring are being taken out of every helicopter in the grounded fleet of Chinooks – replacing advanced hybrid digital technology with older analogue – in an attempt to get the aircraft ready for service, the Commons' Defence Select Committee was told.

The Mark3 Chinooks were designed to carry members of special forces and were equipped with the sophisticated technology. However the Ministry of Defence then discovered that this was incompatible with systems in place in the UK and were thus forced to downgrade the specifications in the aircraft while other Western countries were upgrading theirs.

The helicopters, which had already cost the taxpayer an estimated £422m, are now going through the costly and time consuming work at Boscombe Down near Salisbury. Three will be ready to be used later this year, but there will be delay of almost 18 months before the remainder become airworthy.

The news came as The Independent was told that Gordon Brown had agreed to review troop numbers after the Afghan elections next month. Senior defence sources said that the exact numbers would be decided after a the American commander of Nato forces in Afghanistan produces a report on fresh strategy for the war.

Yesterday Gordon Brown refused to be drawn yesterday on how many British helicopters were in service in Afghanistan and whether he had turned down a plea from military chiefs for more troops.

The Prime Minister cited security reasons for refusing to disclose the number of helicopters in Afghanistan, but denied accusations that defence cuts had created a shortage.

He told the Commons liaison committee: "We have spent the right sums of money and we are prepared to do more to ensure our troops are properly equipped."

Mr Brown said there had been a 60 per cent rise in helicopters in the warzone over the past two years, but declined to give actual figures.

The Prime Minister has insisted that it is "absolutely clear" that the heavy death toll in the recent weeks has not been due to the lack of helicopters. But James Arbuthnot, the chairman of the Defence Committee, said: "If commanders had the option of helicopters, that will give them the opportunity to save lives which otherwise would be lost. We say that the lack of helicopters is having adverse consequences, that means less flexibility and in the end it means lives."

Comparing the difference in the numbers of helicopters between the US and UK, Mr Arbuthnot added "When the committee visited Iraq, we had 17 British helicopters operating but the Americans told us they had found 147 helicopters in a hangar which they thought they had lost." The state of the Chinooks was used as an example by MPs in the committee as an example of problems with helicopters which is costing lives of British troops fighting the Taliban, the committee said in a hard hitting report yesterday.

The MPs urged the Ministry of Defence "to stop equivocating" about the capability, capacity and availability of helicopters and increase the number of aircraft as a matter of utmost urgency. Action should not be delayed in waiting for next year's Strategic Defence Review.

Bernard Jenkin, a Conservative member of the Committee, said: "There can be little doubt that we have sustained casualties because commanders have been forced to use land vehicles due to the lack of helicopters."

Lieutenant General Sir Graeme Lamb, Commander Field Army, who has extensive combat experience, told the Committee, said: "If I were a commander in Task Force Helmand, and had another five Chinooks, I would have a chance to manoeuvre in another way."

In tetchy exchanges, the PM repeatedly refused to confirm claims that the Army had asked to send 2,000 more troops to Afghanistan, but was only allowed to commit an extra 700, bringing the total number of UK troops to 9,100. The number is likely to stay unchanged in the near future.

Mr Brown told Mr Arbuthnot: "For the mission we are doing at the moment we have the troops on the ground."

The Prime Minister would only say that a "range of options" had been discussed. Mr Arbuthnot protested: "Forgive me, I am trying to get a 'yes' or 'no'. But Mr Brown again replied that "a variety of options was considered".

 

 

 

Anywhere but Afghanistan: Where British helicopters are stationed

 

Chinooks

Total 40 in fleet

10 in Helmand

29 in Hampshire

8 to be sent to Helmand

1 being used in an exercise

 

Pumas

43 in fleet

None in Afghanistan

 

Merlins

Total 70 in the fleet

None yet in Afghanistan

8 to be sent to Afghanistan

 

Sea Kings

Total 90 in the fleet

5 in Afghanistan
 

 

Apaches

Total 67 in the fleet

8 in Afghanistan

 

Lynx

Total 176 in the fleet

None in Afghanistan

 

Gazelles

Total 133 in the fleet

None in Afghanistan

 

Other

Total 47 in the fleet

None in Afghanistan

    Revealed: scandal of UK's grounded helicopter fleet, I, 17.7.2009, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/revealed-scandal-of-uks-grounded-helicopter-fleet-1750094.html

 

 

 

 

 

Relentless rise

of Afghanistan casualties laid bare

 

July 17, 2009
From Times Online

 

Michael Evans, Defence Editor The deaths and “life-changing” injuries suffered by British troops in Afghanistan are rising relentlessly, new figures show today, as the political battles over whether the force is properly equipped continue to rage in London.


General Sir Richard Dannatt, the head of the Army, warned today of strategic failure in Afghanistan as he demanded more troops and greater investment.


He was joined by Sir Jock Stirrup, the Chief of the Defence Staff, who said that his forces needed as many helicopters as they could get and were “busting a gut” to draft more into service.


Another soldier has been killed, it was announced today, taking the total since 2001 to 185, of whom 180 have died since the operation in Helmand province began in 2006.


The Ministry of Defence said the soldier from the 2nd Battalion The Rifles was killed today by an improvised explosive device (IED) while he was on a foot patrol near Gereshk in central Helmand. Next of kin have been informed.


Lieutenant-Colonel Nick Richardson, spokesman for Task Force Helmand, said: “He laid down his life for his country and for the good people of Afghanistan. We grieve for his loss and join with his family and friends to mourn his passing. He will always be remembered.”


He was the sixteenth soldier to be killed this month, taking the toll to 48 this year. But the number of wounded has also been increasing, with many of the injuries changing the lives of soldiers for ever.


The Ministry of Defence has produced new injury figures for the period to June 30 which provide an alarming insight into the rising level of casualties.


They do not include any figures for July, but with 16 deaths announced already this month, it is likely that the total injured for the first 17 days of July will add another 30 to 40 to the “wounded in action” statistics.


The latest MoD figures reveal that in June, 46 soldiers were wounded in action, compared with 24 in May, 11 in April, 15 in March, 25 in February and 21 in January.


Of the 46 last month, five were “very seriously wounded” and eight were “seriously wounded”. All will have had to have surgery and some will have had amputations, requiring lengthy rehabilitation at the MoD’s special centre for wounded servicemen and women at Headley Court, near Dorking in Surrey.


Taking an estimated figure of an additional 30 wounded this month, about 730 Armed Forces personnel will have been wounded in action in southern Helmand since 2006.


For the British force in Helmand, the high level of wounded and killed has an impact, not just on the mood of the soldiers but on manpower levels. General Dannatt has been urging the Government to send more troops — he wants another 2,000 in addition to the 9,000 already there.


Gordon Brown told MPs on Thursday that there were now 9,150 troops in Afghanistan, taking into account the extra 140 sent from the reserve battalion, based in Cyprus, to help with Operation Panther’s Claw, the ongoing mission against the Taleban in central Helmand.


The real total fluctuates from week to week and may at present be considerably fewer than the figure given by the Prime Minister.


Although the attrition rate has been high during Operation Panther’s Claw, military commanders assessed the likely casualty toll before launching the mission. Defence sources said the attrition rate had not yet exceeded the predictions, so that no formal request had had to be made for “battle casualty replacements” to be sent from the UK.


Nevertheless, the strain on manpower has been underlined by the request for the extra troops from Cyprus.

    Relentless rise of Afghanistan casualties laid bare, NYT, 17.7.2009, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article6717868.ece

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gerald Scarfe

Sunday Times

July 12 2009

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/article6690437.ece

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two more British soldiers killed

in Afghanistan

 

From Times Online
July 10, 2009

 

Two more British soldiers have been killed in southern Afghanistan, bringing the death toll to nine in just nine days.

The Ministry of Defence said that the two troopers were killed yesterday in separate incidents in Helmand Province, where battle groups are engaged in a major offensive against Taleban insurgents.

In the first incident, yesterday afternoon, a soldier from 4th Battalion The Rifles was killed in a contact explosion whilst on a foot patrol near Nad Ali.

Yesterday evening a soldier from Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment attached to 1st Battalion Welsh Guards was killed as a result of a gunshot wound in an engagement with insurgent forces near Laskhar Gah.

The MoD said that the incident took place as part of Operation Panchai Palang - Panther's Claw - a major assault against the Taleban ahead of next month's Afghan elections.

Lieutenant-Colonel Nick Richardson, a spokesman for Task Force Helmand, said: "These fine British soldiers paid the ultimate sacrifice and their memory will live with us forever. We mourn their loss and our thoughts and prayers are with their families and friends at this very sad time.

"We know that their deaths were not in vain.”

Next of kin have been informed and have asked for a 24-hour period of grace before further details are released.

Since Operation Panther’s Claw was launched in mid-June, 10 soldiers have been killed, including four from the Welsh Guards. It is the most sustained loss of life for UK forces in either the Iraq or Afghanistan campaigns.

The high casualties have been a bitter blow for the British force in Helmand, although with 3,000 troops from three UK battle groups engaged in the biggest offensive against the Taleban since 2006, fatalities had been expected.

A total of 178 British servicemen and women have now been killed in Afghanistan since the start of operations in October 2001, just one fewer than in the Iraq campaign, which lasted six years. Most of the deaths in Afghanistan have taken place since 2006.

The first real signs of success from the operation have also begun to emerge with the announcement that Babaji, a Taleban stronghold fives miles north of Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital, appears to have been seized. The Taleban are reported to have withdrawn from the town.

The Ministry of Defence yesterday named the soldier who died on Wednesday - the seventh in a week - as Trooper Christopher Whiteside, 20, of The Light Dragoons.

The MoD revealed that Trooper Whiteside had hoped to compete in the 2012 Olympics. He died in a blast caused by an improvised explosive device near Gereshk in Helmand.

Trooper Whiteside was a talented swordsman who had hoped to begin training for a possible place in the Great Britain fencing team for the 2012 Olympics in London on his return from Afghanistan.

His friends in the Light Dragoons fondly remembered him demonstrating his fencing skills with a broomstick at a squadron barbecue.

Trooper Whiteside was also taking part in Operation Panther’s Claw in the central Helmand River valley and his commanding officer said that he had endured four days of some of the most intense fighting ever experienced in Afghanistan before his death.

Known as “Norm” to his friends after former Manchester United footballer Norman Whiteside, he was born in Blackpool and joined the Army in 2005 but was discharged a year later following a serious knee injury.

Still determined to serve his country, he signed up as a soldier again in March last year and started his first tour in Afghanistan this year.

He leaves behind his mother, Diane, and her partner, Malcolm, as well as his younger brother, Dan.

Lieutenant-Colonel Gus Fair, his commanding officer, said: “Trooper Whiteside had only been in the regiment for a short time, but had established a reputation as an excellent soldier. Fit, robust and determined, he had all the qualities that mark out a soldier of considerable promise, and he was at the top of his peers.

The grim news came as the bodies of another five British soldiers killed in Afghanistan over the past week - four of them in Operation Panchai Palang - were being returned to the UK.

Their bodies, including that of Trooper Whiteside, were to be flown into RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire this morning. After a repatriation ceremony, hearses carrying their coffins will pass along the high street of nearby Wootton Bassett, which is expected to be lined with hundreds of mourners.

Crowds have appeared spontaneously along the route to pay their respects since the bodies of British service personnel started being brought home through RAF Lyneham in 2007. The procession will then continue to Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital.

    Two more British soldiers killed in Afghanistan, Ts, 10.7.2009, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article6680248.ece

 

 

 

 

 

Bloody reality of Afghan war hits home

As British forces suffer a sharp rise in casualties,
the new Defence Secretary
is forced to acknowledge 'gloom and worry'

 

Thursday, 9 July 2009
The Independent
By Kim Sengupta
Defence Correspondent

 

Seven deaths in seven days, and the grim warning that many more lives will be lost before it is over. That is the bloody reality on the ground for British troops in what has been described as the defining moment in the ferocious war in Afghanistan.

The Defence Secretary Bob Ains-worth acknowledged yesterday that "there is, of course, gloom and worry back here with the numbers of people we have lost". He went on to say: "Let us be under no illusion. The situation in Afghanistan is serious, and not yet decided. The way forward is hard and dangerous. More lives will be lost and our resolve will be tested... If we are to succeed we will need both the courage and the patience to see it through."

The message came along with the news of the latest fatality in the conflict, a serviceman from the Light Dragoons killed in an explosion in Gereshk in Helmand, 24 hours after Captain Ben Babington-Browne, of 22 Engineer Regiment, Royal Engineers, was killed in a helicopter crash.

It was also the day Major Sean Birchall, of the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, was laid to rest after a service at the Guards Chapel in London's Wellington Barracks. His widow, Joanna, the mother of his 18-month-old son Charlie, said: "Sean was a wonderful husband, a doting father and a much loved son and brother who cared deeply for his family and friends. He was thrilled to have the opportunity to lead his men in Afghanistan and he was utterly devoted to the Guardsmen he was with."

At the time of Major Birchall's death his commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Rupert Thornloe spoke of the loss of "an outstandingly talented individual who showed inspirational leadership". Last week Lt Col Thornloe was killed himself, becoming the most senior British Army officer to be killed since the Falklands War, along with Trooper Joshua Hammond, from the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment.

Recriminations about the conduct of the mission with the remorselessly rising casualty list came from a retired senior diplomat, Sir Brian Crowe, the deputy chairman of Chatham House, where the Defence Secretary was speaking, saying the lack of helicopters in the combat zone was "a real scandal".

There were also signs of tensions within the command structure when the Defence Secretary, asked whether he was going to send reinforcements to Afghanistan responded: "We've got 9,000 there at the moment. Those who want to send more are the same ones who warned that current operations could break the Army."

The Independent has revealed that senior military commanders, backed by Mr Ainsworth's predecessor, John Hutton, had asked for 2,500 extra troops to be sent to Helmand. This was turned down by Gordon Brown who would only agree to the temporary deployment of 700 to help provide security for the Afghan elections in August.

Mr Ainsworth denied claims that Afghanistan was turning into "Britain's Vietnam" but acknowledged that there was no quick exit from the conflict. "In the face of the casualties we are seeing, it is understandable when people ask, 'is this too difficult?' But this is not the message I get in Afghanistan. People don't want the Taliban back and we must stay and finish the job. If you come you must stay."

The shadow Defence Secretary Liam Fox claimed that despite Mr Ainsworth's assurances, troops in Afghanistan still lack essential equipment. "There are real questions about whether the Government has fulfilled the pledge to give the armed forces everything they need to do the job," he said. "The bottom line from our troops is they don't have enough armoured vehicles and they don't have enough helicopters."

The US Defence Secretary Robert Gates had stated that American public opinion will "wear thin" in Afghanistan unless significant progress is made in the course of the year. Both sides seem to see the coming months as decisive in shaping the course of the conflict. More than 22,000 US troops have poured into the south of the country with around 10,000 heading for Helmand, the centre of UK operations.

They are paying a heavy price; seven American soldiers, along with two Canadians, were killed in 24 hours earlier this week. US and British forces are now involved in an operation to take control of the Helmand river valley, an area which has become the base for Taliban fighters fanning out to carry out attacks across the province.

    Bloody reality of Afghan war hits home, I, 9.7.2009, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/bloody-reality-of-afghan-war-hits-home-1738052.html

 

 

 

 

 

Families of dead soldiers

sue MoD over 'vulnerable' Snatch Land Rovers

 

June 19, 2009
From Times Online
Deborah Haynes, Defence Correspondent

 

The families of four soldiers killed by roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan are suing the Ministry of Defence, claiming that the lightly armoured Snatch Land Rovers their loved ones died in should never have been on the frontline.

Their lawyers want the relatives of other servicemen and women killed or injured in the combat vehicle to come forward as they too might be eligible to seek damages.

Karla and Courtney Ellis, the sister and eight-year-old daughter of Private Lee Ellis, 23, today became the fourth family officially to serve a claim. Private Ellis was killed in a roadside bomb in southern Iraq in February 2006.

Lawyer Jocelyn Cockburn, of Hodge Jones & Allen, said: “It is a claim for negligence and under the Human Rights Act that the Snatch Land Rovers were too vulnerable to the roadside bombs and other explosives used by the insurgents, and should never have been used in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Her firm is also representing the other three families who have issued claims since last year against the MoD, on behalf of Marine Gary Wright, who died in Afghanistan in October 2006, Lance Corporal Kirk Redpath, 22, who was killed in Iraq in August 2007 and Private Phillip Hewett, 21, who also died in Iraq in July 2005.

“If there are other families of those killed or even injured in a Snatch who think they may have a claim, they should get in touch,” Ms Cockburn told The Times.

Once all cases are served they will be put on hold until the High Court makes a decision on whether the Secretary of State for Defence was wrong to refuse last year to hold a public inquiry into the Snatch Land Rover.

A preliminary request for a judicial review is due to be held in the next two or three months.

The families believe the combat vehicles lack sufficient armour and the Defence Ministry should never have allowed their continued use. Snatch Land Rovers are good for providing quick transportation but do not offer the same protection against bomb blasts as the better-armoured Mastif.

A Ministry of Defence Spokesman said: “Over the past 14 months, the MoD has received four compensation claims following deaths involving Snatch landrovers in Iraq and Afghanistan. The MoD pays compensation wherever there is a liability to do so. In these cases we remain profoundly aware of the enduring grief of the four families who lost their loved ones in combat."

Over the past four years at least 37 military personnel have been killed in Snatch Land Rovers during operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The toll raised concerns about the protection the vehicles provide against the threat of roadside bombs - the greatest risk in both conflict zones.

A former senior SAS officer in Afghanistan, who resigned from his post last October, has said the Government has “blood on its hands” over the deaths of four soldiers killed when their Snatch Land Rover hit an anti-tank mine in Helmand province, southern Afghanistan in June 2008.

Among the dead was Corporal Sarah Bryant, the first British servicewoman to die in the country.

Major Sebastian Morley said army commanders and Whitehall officials ignored his warnings that “unsafe” vehicles would lead to the deaths of soldiers.

Ms Cockburn hopes that a landmark Court of Appeal decision last month that troops serving overseas were covered by the Human Rights Act even in the battlefield would help to strengthen the families’ cases.

    Families of dead soldiers sue MoD over 'vulnerable' Snatch Land Rovers, Ts, 19.6.2009, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article6537095.ece

 

 

 

 

 

Another soldier killed in Afghanistan

Latest death,
as family mourn 20-year-old Private Robert McLaren,
brings total number of men and women lost to 168

 

June 13, 2009
From Times Online

 

Sara Dixon A soldier killed in Afghanistan yesterday morning was from the 2nd Battalion the Rifles and was killed in a military operation near Sangin in Helmand as friends and colleagues paid tribute to another serviceman, who lost his life on Thursday. Both men died in two separate explosions while fighting the Taliban.

Task Force Helmand spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Nick Richardson, offered his condolences, saying: "It is with deep regret that we report the death of another soldier in Helmand Province. Our deepest heartfelt sympathies go out to the soldiers and officers of 2nd Battalion the Rifles and the bereaved friends and family of this brave soldier."

On Thursday Private Robert McLaren, of the Black Watch, 3rd Battalion who was fresh out of infantry recruit training and had only been on active service for four weeks, was killed. The 20-year-old died during a protracted firefight with insurgents outside the city of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan It was only the fourth time Pte McLaren had faced enemy fire.

Today his commanding officer said McLaren, from the Isle of Mull, had given his life to protect his fellow soldiers. Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Cartwright said: "Robert had displayed enormous physical courage during this battle for one so young. He gave his life for his friends with his selfless commitment, moving forward in the face of a determined and ruthless enemy."

Yesterday his family paid tribute saying: “We are very proud of Robert. He died doing a job he loved and we will cherish fond memories of him forever.”

The recent deaths bring the number of service men and women who have lost their lives in Afghanistan up to 168.

    Another soldier killed in Afghanistan, NYT, 13.6.2009, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article6492025.ece

 

 

 

 

 

MoD admits use of controversial 'enhanced blast' weapons in Afghanistan

 

Thursday 28 May 2009 19.33 BST
Richard Norton-Taylor
Guardian.co.uk
This article was first published on guardian.co.uk at 19.33 BST on Thursday 28 May 2009.
It appeared in the Guardian on Friday 29 May 2009 on p4 of the UK news section.
It was last updated at 02.52 BST on Friday 29 May 2009.

 

British pilots in Afghanistan are firing an increasing number of "enhanced blast" thermobaric weapons, designed to kill everyone in buildings they strike, the Ministry of Defence has revealed.

Since the start of this year more than 20 of the US-designed missiles, which have what is officially described as a "blast fragmentation warhead", have been fired by pilots of British Apache attack helicopters. A total of 20 were also fired last year after they were bought by the MoD from the Americans last May.

The missiles are a variant of the AGM-114N Hellfire missile, described by the Pentagon as "designed to produce higher sustained blast pressure in multi-room structures.

It adds: "The enhanced blast from the … warhead is more effective against non-traditional targets; multi-room structures expected in military operations in urban terrain operations, caves, and fortified bunkers."

The missile's warhead is made with a mixture of chemicals rather than a simple blast mechanism.

"The thermobaric Hellfire missile can take out the first floor of a building without damaging the floors above, and is capable of reaching around corners," according to Global-Security.org, a US thinktank.

It describes the effects of the missile as "formidable". Unlike conventional warheads, it produces a sustained pressure wave. US forces have deployed the missiles in Iraq as well as Afghanistan.

Its wider use was disclosed by John Hutton, the defence secretary, in answer to a parliamentary answer from Nick Harvey, the Liberal Democrat defence spokesman. "Given the MoD's reluctance to admit they were even going to use these weapons, they now seem to be getting rather more trigger-happy," Harvey said yesterday. "If these controversial weapons are being fired on a weekly basis in Afghanistan, we need to know that they are being used according to strict rules of engagement.

"Human rights groups have serious concerns about the effect of these weapons in populated areas, and their legality seems to be a grey area. The last thing we need in this counter-insurgency campaign is the allegation that civilians are dying at the hands of some kind of terror weapon. Parliament must be reassured these are a weapon of last resort."

A UK defence official told the Guardian that the Hellfire missiles that British Apaches had been initially equipped with were lighter anti-tank weapons. They would simply make a "small hole" in a building and the enemy would run away unscathed, the official said.

The new US-designed weapon was "particularly designed to take down structures and kill everyone in the buildings".

The official said British pilots' rules of engagement were strict and everything a pilot sees from the cockpit is recorded.

    MoD admits use of controversial 'enhanced blast' weapons in Afghanistan, G, 28.5.2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/may/28/british-pilots-afghanistan-thermobaric-weapons

 

 

 

 

 

UK to send 700 more troops to Afghanistan

Gordon Brown tells Commons additional troops will provide security
during forthcoming presidential elections and will remain in the country until the autumn

 

Wednesday 29 April 2009
Press Association
Guardian.co.uk
13.57 BST

 

Gordon Brown confirmed today plans to send 700 additional British troops to Afghanistan to provide security during the country's forthcoming presidential elections.

In a Commons statement, which coincided with the publication of a document setting out UK policy towards Afghanistan and Pakistan, the prime minister said the additional troops, which will take the British force there to 9,000, will remain in the country until the autumn.

Officials made clear that there will be no permanent increase in UK troop numbers, which will return to the current level of 8,300 once the temporary "surge" is over.

Brown, who visited Afghanistan and Pakistan earlier this week, said the lawless borderlands between the two countries are a "crucible of global terrorism" that ultimately threatens the security of the UK. Britain would take "more determined and concerted action" to deal with the problem, Brown said.

He echoed Barack Obama, who warned that extremism is a "cancer that is killing Pakistan from within".

Brown said: "For Afghanistan, our strategy is to ensure the country is strong enough as a democracy to withstand and overcome the terrorist threat."

In Pakistan, Britain would work with the government and the army "to help them counter terrorism by taking more control of the border areas", Brown said. Britain would also work "to prevent young people from falling under the sway of violent and extremist ideologies".

Brown's statement came a day after a British soldier from 1st Battalion Welsh Guards was killed in an explosion while on foot patrol in southern Afghanistan, bringing the number of British service personnel who have died in the country since operations began to 153.

Brown flew to Afghanistan on Monday, where he visited troops before meeting Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, in Kabul, then going to Islamabad to see Asif Ali Zardari, the Pakistani president.

About £665m in development aid, including textbooks, which is bound for Pakistan over the next four years, is being directed to the northern areas to encourage young people away from extremism.

Britain wants the Afghan provinces to be handed over to government control one by one, in much the same way as happened in Iraq.

The strategy also calls for the Afghan army to be expanded from 75,000 to 134,000 troops by the end of 2011, alongside the recruitment of thousands of police.

Lord Ashdown, the former Liberal Democrat leader, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "The truth is this [the Afghanistan conflict] can't be won by soldiers. Soldiers can hold the ring, they can protect the space you want to reconstruct governance and establish the rule of law.

"But if you go about chasing the enemy wherever they go and in the consequence kill civilians rather than hold ground, the result is you are not just going to be killing terrorists but also making enemies.

"And that is exactly what has happened. We've had a huge death toll among civilians, in large measure, not exclusively, by American bombing."

    UK to send 700 more troops to Afghanistan, NYT, 29.4.2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/apr/29/brown-afghanistan-pakistan

 

 

 

 

 

Cost of war in Afghanistan soars to £2.5bn

• Iraq total also up despite pull-out &middot
• Annual bill for conflicts hits £4.5bn

 

Friday 13 February 2009
The Guardian
Richard Norton-Taylor

 

The cost of Britain's military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq this financial year has soared to more than £4.5bn, an annual increase of more than 50%, figures released yesterday reveal.

Operations in southern Afghanistan accounted for a little over half, nearly £2.6bn, compared with £1.5bn last year. Most of the money was spent on providing tougher armoured vehicles for soldiers who face a growing threat of roadside bombs.

Surprisingly, as the government prepares to withdraw from Basra, the cost of Britain's military presence in southern Iraq this year increased to nearly £2bn, compared with less than £1.5bn last year, according to the figures released by the Ministry of Defence.

Much of that increase was accounted for by what defence officials called "impairment" - writing off the value of equipment such as Warrior fighting vehicles which are judged not to be worth the expense of bringing back to Britain.

The Liberal Democrat defence spokesman, Nick Harvey, said: "Every extra day British forces spend in Iraq costs millions of pounds and diverts much-needed helicopters and vehicles from Afghanistan. The government must make sure that this time it keeps true to its commitment to withdraw all forces from Basra airbase as soon as possible.

"Unfortunately, the military price tag will not in itself bring success in Afghanistan. We need to see all Nato allies pulling their weight, alongside greater involvement of regional partners, including Iran, to create a stable Afghanistan."

However, the Conservative MP Patrick Mercer, an adviser to the prime minister on security issues, said he was not surprised. "War is expensive and during the credit crunch everything to do with war has got more expensive, with the possible exception of fuel. In Iraq, though we have scaled down, the remote nature of the airports means everything is still expensive despite the fact there are now less men on the ground. And obviously extra troops in Afghanistan means more money there."

The latest figures came as the government's former chief scientific adviser, Sir David King, suggested that securing oil supplies had been a significant factor behind the decision of Britain and the US to invade Iraq. The US was concerned about energy security and supply when it went to war, he said, adding: "Casting its eye around the world - there was Iraq." In a lecture this week he said that it would come to be regarded as "the first of the resource wars", contradicting Tony Blair's repeated insistence that oil was not behind the decision.

The new figures mean that the total cost so far of Britain's military engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001 - not including civil aid money, which also runs into billions of pounds - is now about £14bn.

The money has come out of the Treasury's contingency reserve and not the defence budget. "This is new money over and above the core defence budget ... to ensure our forces are properly trained, equipped and supported for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan," the MoD said.

The cost of military operations in Afghanistan is likely to increase further as the government comes under pressure from the US to deploy more troops there. Some 8,000 British troops are now fighting the Taliban and other insurgent groups in Helmand province in Afghanistan.

British defence staff are drawing up contingency plans to send between 1,500 and 3,000 more troops to southern Afghanistan later this year. Some reinforcements may be deployed temporarily during the period leading to presidential elections in Afghanistan, due in August.

Gordon Brown warned senior backbench MPs yesterday that western forces were facing a "new type of threat" in Afghanistan. He said the Taliban had changed tactics in recent months to fight a guerrilla war with suicide attacks and roadside bombs. He added that there was a renewed focus on stemming the flow of fighters across the border from Pakistan.

Britain's garrison of 4,100 troops based at Basra airport will be run down in the coming months, with all but about 300, who will continue to train Iraqi forces, leaving by the end of July.

The MoD has asked for more than £600m for "urgent operational requirements" for the next financial year, 2009-10. Any expenditure above that will initially come out of the Treasury reserve, but the MoD will have to repay it after two years.

The arrangement reflects overall pressures on public finances. The defence budget is already under severe pressure as a result of belated investment in such basic needs as accommodation for troops and their families and the procurement of expensive new weapons systems including aircraft carriers, destroyers, submarines and fast jets.

The defence budget will be increased by more than £500m to reach a total of just over £38bn this year, the MoD said yesterday.

    Cost of war in Afghanistan soars to £2.5bn, G, 13.2.2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/feb/13/afghanistan-iraq-bill-british-military