– Gordon Brown insists Afghan war being won (Times Online)
Death toll in Afghanistan is now 184, a figure that has surpassed the 179 killed in the Iraq
The Ministry of Defence announced on Friday night the deaths of five more UK service personnel in Afghanistan, taking the total number of British troops whose deaths were revealed on Friday to eight.
As Gordon Brown gave warning that warned Britain faced a “very hard summer” in the run-up to elections in Afghanistan, the announcement news of the new fatalities in Afghanistan meant that 15 British soldiers have now have lost their lives in Helmand in the past 10 days.
– Related article: Eight British troops die in Afghan war in 24 hours (Reuters)
The MoD said the five soldiers whose deaths were announced on Friday evening were killed in two separate explosions near Sangin. in Helmand province. Next of kin have been informed. (MUST INCLude last sentence).
The prime minister offered a sombre defence of the mission in Afghanistan as “vital to the safety of the world” as he called on the international community to stand its ground until the Taliban was vanquished.
His tribute to the courage of British forces came as operations in Helmand province entered an intense and bloody phase, with US and UK forces advancing and attempting to hold land in Taliban strongholds. The latest eight British losses announced yesterday mean that the total death toll in Afghanistan is now 184, a figure that has surpassed the 179 killed in the Iraq campaign.
“This is a very hard summer – it’s not over,” Mr Brown said at the G8 summit in Italy. “But it’s vital that the international community sees through its commitments. Our resolve to complete the work that we have started in Afghan-istan is undiminished.”
The surge in the casualty rate has reignited a political debate over the war’s purpose and the adequacy of equipment. Bob Ainsworth, defence secretary, used a keynote speech this week to warn of fatalities to come as he argued there was “no end date in Afghanistan, only an end state”.
Nick Clegg, Liberal Democrat leader, broke the political consensus over the war, questioning whether the government had the “will, strategy or tactics to do the job properly”. Mr Clegg expressed his “immense distress” at the losses as he reiterated his call to “ask ourselves very simple, hard, tough questions” about the conflict. “Are we putting a political strategy in place to make sure their efforts are not in vain?” he said.
Mr Brown turned down army requests to send 2,000 reinforcements to Afghanistan, opting instead to send an additional 900 for the elections next month. But officials say the increase would be only temporary, telling allies that the reinforcements will be returning to Britain after the vote.
Mr Brown rejected a claim by Lord Guthrie, former chief of the defence staff, that his refusal to send more troops and equipment caused a rise in recent casualties.
“We have played our part in increasing the capability of the whole alliance force in Afghanistan,” he said.
10 Jul 2009 11:52pm
By George Parker in L’Aquila and Alex Barker and James Blitz in London
Source: The Financial Times