'Butcher Brown' Says... 'We Must Fight On' As British Military Death Toll Now Over 200!

Submitted by SadInAmerica on Sun, 08/16/2009 - 5:58pm.

Britain must remain in Afghanistan and "honour its commitment" to make the country stable, Gordon Brown said after the deaths of two more soldiers took the UK toll in the conflict beyond 200.

The dark milestone was reached yesterday when a soldier from 2nd Battalion the Royal Welsh died at Selly Oak military hospital in Birmingham. He was wounded while on vehicle patrol on Thursday near Musa Qal'eh, in Helmand province.

This morning, the Ministry of Defence said that the 201st casualty, from 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, also died yesterday from his injuries after being caught in an explosion on a foot patrol near Sangin in Helmand.

Neither man was named, but the families of both have been informed.

Sixty-four of the deaths happened this year, with 31 in July and August alone. The great majority of the casualties died in bombings as insurgents honed their tactics through the use of improvised explosive devices.

The prime minister said the new deaths were tragic, but insisted the soldiers' "vital mission" was worthwhile.

"Every man and woman fighting for their country is someone's son or daughter, someone's brother or sister, or someone's father or mother," he said. "Every death leaves a hole in a family's life that will never be filled. We are hugely indebted to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, and today my thoughts are with the families and friends of all those soldiers who have died in Afghanistan serving our country.

"Today is a day of mourning, and also a day of reflection. I want to thank the entire armed forces and the families and communities which sustain them. We will honour and support those who have been killed or wounded in the field of battle. And we will give those who fight on all the support that they need to succeed in this vital mission."

Britain's roll of honour ranges from six 18-year-olds to a 51-year-old senior aircraftsman, and includes the most senior British soldier to die in combat for 27 years and a female intelligence officer.

A Taliban suicide bomber struck Nato's headquarters in Kabul's most fortified district yesterday and the British ambassador warned of further attacks ahead of Thursday's elections.

Seven people were killed and almost 100 wounded, including several international soldiers, when the bomber detonated his explosives on the doorstep of Kabul's international military headquarters. Analysts viewed the attack as an attempt to prove that the Taliban are capable of striking anywhere.

A Nato worker on the base said the death toll could have been far higher if many of the Afghan staff had not made it into the heavily fortified compound.

It emerged that General Stanley McChrystal, the US commander of Nato forces in Afghanistan, was holding his morning media briefing at the time of the incident. The complex where the attack took place, known as HQ ISAF, is in the heart of Kabul's answer to Baghdad's Green Zone, a network of fortified embassies and government offices close to the presidential palace.

Mark Sedwill, Britain's ambassador to Afghanistan, told the Observer the Taliban were highly likely to replicate yesterday's audacious strike in an attempt to derail the presidential elections.

Speaking in Kabul, Sedwill said: "It's likely there will be one or two attacks of a fairly significant kind, perhaps early in the election day, to try to intimidate people. In some areas, we know they will try to target election officials."

He predicted that in the south of the country voter turnout on Thursday could be as low as 40%.

The attack is the latest in a series of increasingly sophisticated strikes. In the south of the country, a force of 9,100 British troops has suffered heavy losses in driving the Taliban from districts of Helmand province ahead of the polls.

A Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, confirmed the attackers had been targeting the Nato headquarters and the nearby US embassy as part of a campaign to disrupt the elections and said the attack followed orders from the Taliban leadership for Afghans to boycott the polls.

However, details emerged last night of a covert operation backed by Britain that could see thousands of Taliban fighters and their Afghan allies rejecting the orders of Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader, and taking part in the elections.

Sedwill revealed that negotiations with local Taliban commanders and pro-election Afghans were being stepped up across southern Afghanistan. "It is quite likely that large numbers of these essentially tactical allies of the Taliban will participate in the elections," he said. "It [the Taliban] is not a monolith and much will depend on the decisions by local tribal leaders and Talib commanders."

He warned that the Taliban were set to step up their campaign of disruption. "It's likely there will be an effort to intimidate people by saying: 'We may not get you on polling day, but we will exact vengeance if you go out and vote.' What we don't know is whether they will attack polling stations."

The increased tension coincided with the release of details of the attack on Thursday in which two British soldiers in southern Afghanistan died trying to save an injured friend. Lance Bombardier Matthew Hatton, 23, was wounded along with two colleagues in the initial attack in Sangin, Helmand province. Rifleman Daniel Wild, 19, and Captain Mark Hale were carrying the injured man on foot to a helicopter landing zone when they were hit by a second explosion that killed Hatton and Wild. Hale later died of his injuries in hospital at Camp Bastion, the UK's main military base.

August 16, 2009 - source GuardianUK

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Submitted by SadInAmerica on Sun, 08/16/2009 - 5:58pm.