Philip Hammond: ‘Insider’ attack will not derail strategy of training Afghans
BRITAIN’S defence secretary, Philip Hammond, will update MPs on security in Afghanistan today, following the deaths of three British soldiers and an assault on the UK’s main military base in the country.
Mr Hammond said two of the deaths were “all the more raw” because the killer had been dressed as an Afghan policeman and feigning injury.
The comments came as he updated MPs following a bloody spell for Nato forces in the troubled country.
Father of two Sergeant Gareth Thursby, 29, and Private Thomas Wroe, 18, were shot dead in the south of Nahr-e Saraj district, Helmand province, on Saturday, in what appears to be the latest in a string of “green-on-blue” incidents.
The soldiers, from 3rd Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment (Duke of Wellington’s), were killed at a checkpoint when a man dressed as a local Afghan policeman pretended to be injured so they would help him.
On Friday, Lance Corporal Duane Groom, from 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, died after his vehicle hit a roadside bomb.
On the same day, two US
marines were killed and six planes destroyed during an attack on Camp Bastion, the desert base in Helmand province where the bulk of the UK’s 9,500-strong force in Afghanistan is deployed.
Taleban sources claimed that Camp Bastion was targeted
because Prince Harry is serving there on his second tour of duty in the country as an army
captain. At the time, the prince was about 2km away with other crew members of an Apache attack helicopter and was not harmed.
The weekend’s bleak news brought the total number of members of UK forces to have died since operations in Afghanistan began in October 2001 to 430.
Answering an urgent question in the Commons, Mr Hammond said: “In recent days we have again been reminded of the difficult and challenging environment in which our armed forces operate.
“Our servicemen and women are doing vital work protecting the UK from the threat of international terrorism.
“Our strategy is clear – we are mentoring and training the Afghan army and police to deliver security to their own people.
“The Taleban hate this strategy, and seek to wreck it through insider attacks. They aim to disrupt the collaboration with
Afghan forces which is at the heart of our strategy.
“We cannot and we will not allow the process to be derailed.”
Mr Hammond said the partnership with the Afghan security forces “involved risk but it is essential to success”.
He said the issue had been “at the top of my agenda” during recent meetings with the country’s president, Hamid Karzai, and he had been “reassured” that the Afghan government was doing everything it could to minimise the danger.
“All our losses in Afghanistan are tragic but the pain feels all the more raw when the incident undermines the trust our forces have built up with the Afghans as they work towards our goal,” he said.
Mr Hammond also reiterated that Prince Harry was never in any danger during the assault on Bastion, pointing out that
the base was the same size as Reading.
“It is difficult to defend a base of that size,” he added. “A task made all the harder when faced with a suicidal enemy.”
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Saturday 25 May 2013
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