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Anorak | Six British soldiers killed in Afghanistan: what the papers say

Six British soldiers killed in Afghanistan: what the papers say

by | 8th, March 2012

THE deaths of six British soldiers in Afghanistan dominates the news. The  soldiers, five from 3rd Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment and one from 1st Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, died when their  Warrior MICV fighting vehicle struck an improvised explosive device in southern Afghanistan. The dead had only been in Afghanistan a short time – two weeks. Since 2001, 404 Britons have died in Afghanistan.

Also, 1,874 UK military and civilian personnel have been admitted to UK field hospitals and classified as wounded in action. Of these, 269 were categorised as “very seriously injured” from all causes excluding disease.

Tom Coglan writes in the Times:

The improvised explosive device has emerged as the defining weapon of the first decade of the 21st century. In the words of one US commander in Afghanistan: “It is not a fact of IEDs on the battlefield, the IEDs are the battlefield.”

Sixteen thousand roadside bombs were laid in Afghanistan last year. In 2009 the figure was 9,300. Even the largest vehicles deployed by Western armies, such as the Warrior, have struggled to defend themselves against bombs that are growing in strength.

Times leader:

Each died for a reason. In the House of Commons yesterday, David Cameron described these sacrifices as “the human cost paid by our Armed Forces to keep our country safe”. This was no patriotic hyperbole. British forces — along with their Isaf and Nato allies — were deployed to Afghanistan in the wake of the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York to deny al-Qaeda a safe haven from which to plan further assaults in Britain and elsewhere.

This, they have done. Al-Qaeda still exists, but the organisation is no longer what it was. Fragmented, incoherent and with a vastly decreased influence, it fights now mainly for survival. Nato estimates that fewer than 100 foreign militants remain in the country.

Deborah Haynes, Times Defence Editor, tells the story:
Darkness was falling as two armoured vehicles rumbled over the dusty plain that runs beside a main highway in southern Afghanistan.

It was a routine patrol on the eastern edge of Helmand province which had crossed into neighbouring Kandahar. But for the soldiers on board the Warrior fighting vehicles, the terrain was still new — they had arrived in Afghanistan only two weeks earlier.

Suddenly a blast cut through the night. A huge bomb buried in the sand tore through the body of the lead Warrior, ripping open the underbelly and igniting a deadly fire. Boxes of bullets and other ammunition started to explode, adding to the carnage. The six men on board — five from 3rd Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment and one from 1st Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment — did not stand a chance.

The intensity of the blaze meant that the troops in the second Warrior were unable to mount a rescue or even retrieve bodies from the flames.

Richard North looks at The Warrior:

Thus, there is nothing really new about the Taliban capability and although there are suggestions that this current incident will make it essential to introduce new and expensive countermeasures to protect the remaining fleet, there is very little that can be done to the Warriors to enhance their protection.

The weapon of choice, the Ammonium Nitrate Fuel Oil (AFNO) bomb, is a formidable instrument, but it is very old technology and has been used for many years by the Taliban. At weights of up to 250Kg, used in culverts, it can have devastating results.

As to countermeasures, rather than armour, surveillance and patrolling are the maincountermeasures. Certainly, there is only a limited amount that can be done in the way of adding armour protection to a design which is not optimised for mine/IED protection.

Much more could have been done in the past, but with troops scheduled to depart by 2014, there is little more that probably will be done over the next two years. But one does look askance at Dannatt’s comments, with him saying that the deaths of six soldiers were a matter of “great sorrow and sadness”.

Had it been left to him, British troops would have been equipped with Piranhas, under the guise of FRES, with far greater slaughter than we have already experienced – as recounted in Ministry of Defeat.

The Daily Star on its front page calls it ” The BLOODIEST DAY OF WAR”. It wasn’t. In September 2006 when 14 British personnel were killed in the crash of the Nimrod MR2. This was the most deadly single incident involving Army personnel on ground duties.

The Daily Express calls it “MASS MUDER”. The Sun says it was “OUR SADDEST DAY”.

The Guardian sees Battlesbury Barracks in Warminster, where “the flags flew at half-mast and the soldiers guarding the gate were taking care to make sure a candle lit by wives and partners when their loved ones were deployed toAfghanistan continued to burn”.

Talk in the town inevitably turned to the reasons for British troops still being in Afghanistan. “I feel so sorry for those boys and their families but it makes me ask again why they are out there in the first place,” said the van driver Jim Pearce. “I admire their bravery but I don’t see why we are involved in their war. I know some lads who have been out there. They are convinced that as soon as they pull out, whenever that is, the place will just collapse again. It makes you wonder what the point is.”

So..?

General Sir David Richards vowed the country would “hold its nerve” and continue combat operations in the region until the end of 2014 as the total number of British forces killed since the US-led invasion rose to more than 400.

Is the stomach for the fight there?

Daily Mirror: “This is not a war we’re going to win: Mum of 100th soldier killed in Afghanistan begs PM to bring our heroes home – On the day six of our brave boys were reported dead in a blast, Carla Cuthbertson wrote a moving open letter to the PM.”

She spoke as youngest son Connan, 18, also a soldier, prepares to fly out to Helmand next year and she is terrified the same fate awaits him.

In an emotional letter to the PM, Carla wrote: “In 2008 my eldest boy Nathan was killed in Afghanistan. I believed then he had died for a noble cause. Now, as I send my youngest son to war, I beg you to end this bloodshed. No more young men and women should die in this conflict. Nathan did give his life for something he believed in. But when another 100 lives had been lost, I started to question why we were sending soldiers to Afghanistan. Now I feel this is not a war we’re going to win and I don’t want any more families to suffer like mine.”

The Daily Express:

If the advice of this newspaper had been followed, British forces would have been withdrawn years ago – as soon as it had become clear that the Taliban were not going to be defeated and that the mission to reconstruct Afghanistan had been dreadfully set back by the invasion of Iraq.

Instead, hundreds more brave British soldiers have been killed and thousands more injured, apparently in a bid to ensure that a forward-looking, democratic government will be permanently established in Kabul. To put it mildly, that does not seem a likely outcome.

The Anglicans are heading back to the warzone:

In previous tours the Royal Anglians have taken the fight to the Taliban and lost nine men in 2007 and five in 2009-10, including Lance-Corporal Scott Hardy, of Chelmsford, who was killed by a roadside bomb, and Private John Thrumble of Mayland who was one of three soldiers killed when the US accidentally bombed them.

The Anglians fired one million rounds and killed 1,028 Taliban in 2007 and killed a further 265 insurgents in 2009-10.

But since then, they have been training for a different type of mission.

Although improvised explosive devices and threats of ambushes lurk around every corner, the Anglians are more focused on handing control of the area back to the Afghan army and police.

Lieutenant-Colonel Aston has visited Nad-e-Ali a few times in recent months and said the area has seen “rapid progress”.

He said:

“It is one of the districts of Helmand which is held up as an example of progress. It is a reflection of the willingness and capability of the Afghans to take the lead. It is led by a very capable and charismatic district governor who is well supported by the Afghan army and police. It is still a dangerous place and, while there has certainly been some real headway in transition, there is still an active, but suppressed, insurgency. But soldiers who have not been there since 2010 will be staggered at how capable and willing the Afghan forces are. There is increased security for the Afghan people, which leads to increased confidence and economic development and optimism. They are starting to believe they can squeeze the Taliban out.”

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan…

Rescuers shoveled through deep snow Wednesday, searching for victims of an avalanche that destroyed a village of about 200 people in northeastern Afghanistan, authorities said. Fifty people have been confirmed dead, and most of the other residents of the devastated village are also believed to have perished.

President Hamid Karzai has backed guidelines issued by Afghanistan’s religious council that relegate women to the position of second-class citizens, raising questions about whether British soldiers should continue to put their lives at risk for a government that seems prepared to sell out on the issue in order to engage the Taliban in a peace deal.

The Afghan leader endorsed the repressive guidelines on Tuesday, the same day that six British soldiers were killed in an explosion in Helmand province. “Men are fundamental and women are secondary,” the 150-member Ulema Council said in a statement that was subsequently posted on Mr Karzai’s own website. It also said that men and women should not mix in work or education, and that women must have a male guardian when they travel.

When does a war end?



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