Eight British soldiers died in a day in Afghanistan in the UK's worst loss for a 24-hour period. Prime Minister warned of a "very hard summer", with the total death toll of 184 UK soldiers passing that of British deaths in Iraq.
Reuters - Britain said on
Friday eight soldiers had been killed in Afghanistan, its worst
death toll in a 24-hour period, and Prime Minister Gordon Brown
said troops faced a "very hard summer" battling insurgents.
Five troops on foot patrol were killed by two blasts, the
highest death toll in a single attack.
Britain has now lost 184 soldiers in Afghanistan since it
joined the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, more than the 179 deaths
during its campaign in Iraq that began in 2003.
Fifteen soldiers, including four officers, have been killed
in the past 10 days in the fight against Taliban insurgents.
The heavy losses threaten to damage British public support
for the deployment in Afghanistan and further hurt Brown's
already poor opinion poll ratings ahead of a British
parliamentary election due by mid-2010.
Most newspapers led their early Saturday editions with
reports of the losses, with the right-leaning Daily Mail urging
Brown to "back our troops -- or pull them out".
"We cannot go on as we are, watching the bravest and best of
their generation dying at the rate of more than one a day ...
for an ill-defined cause and with inadequate backup," it said.
The Times said the deaths recalled the worst moments of the
1982 Falklands conflict, when British troops retook the South
Atlantic islands after an invasion by Argentine forces.
"In the last ten days, the British public has had to become
accustomed to the daily ritual of grim ... announcements," said
Britain's Chief of Defence Staff Jock Stirrup said British
troops were winning in their mission to improve security in
Afghanistan ahead of a presidential election.
"But it's going to take time and alas it does involve
casualties ... Our people out there know what they are there to
do and they know they are succeeding in it," he said.
Brown said there was no question of pulling soldiers out of
Afghanistan until the international community had finished its
mission there and quelled the threat from the Taliban.
"This is a very hard summer -- it's not over," Brown told
reporters at the G8 summit in Italy.
"But it's vital that the international community sees
through its commitments," he said.
"Our resolve to complete the work that we have started in
Afghanistan is undiminished. We must help deliver a free and
fair presidential election in Afghanistan."
Britain has boosted troop levels to around 9,000 from 8,100
to improve security ahead of and during Afghanistan's
presidential election, due to be held on Aug. 20.
Critics have said Britain is placing soldiers at risk by not
deploying a big enough force and failing to give troops the
equipment they need, especially helicopters and better armoured
vehicles to withstand deadly Taliban roadside bombs.
"I think we have responded to the demands of the military
for extra equipment for particular things -- night vision
equipment and also for armoured vehicles and the protection of
these vehicles as well as the helicopters," said Brown.
"I think you've got to accept that this is very difficult
terrain. This is the season when we're dealing with the Afghan
Most of those killed in the past few days have died as a
result of bomb blasts, with the Taliban using increasingly
sophisticated technology to detonate bigger and better disguised
mines and bombs planted by the roadside.
The attacks are an attempt by the Taliban to stall a
large-scale operation by U.S. and British troops across southern
Afghanistan where the Taliban remain strong, especially in the
provinces of Helmand and Kandahar.
Britain has a variety of lightly armoured vehicles in use in
Afghanistan that have proved good at handling the rocky, desert
terrain but have been torn apart by bombs.
Defence experts say Britain also needs to move many more
heavy-lift helicopters to the region to help with ferrying large
numbers of troops over the vast distances. Britain currently has
just a handful of these helicopters in the Afghan operation.
Date created : 2009-07-11