Afghanistan role quandary amid deaths of Wiltshire soldiers
There was a political backlash from the “green on blue” deaths of two West-based soldiers yesterday after Nato commanders ordered that routine joint patrols with Afghan security would be stopped.
One MP was thrown out of the Commons chamber for accusing ministers of lying over the war in Afghanistan, as more tributes were paid to the two Wiltshire-based soldiers who were shot on Saturday.
Sergeant Gareth Thursby and Private Tom Wroe were shot by a rogue Afghan policeman and their deaths, coupled with more similar killings by Afghan security forces that are supposed by Nato soldiers’ allies in the war-torn country, prompted Nato commanders to issue a decree that close patrols involving the local army or police and British soldiers would only happen with senior approval and only take place on major operations.
But amid fiery scenes in Parliament yesterday, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond played down the impact that order would have on soldiers on the ground. The Government has long said the role of British forces has been to train up the Afghan Army and police to enable them to take over security and allow combat troops to return home by 2014. Labour MP Paul Flynn was ejected from the Commons for refusing to retract an accusation that ministers had lied to Parliament over the Afghan mission.
Mr Hammond admitted nine British soldiers are among some 51 to have died in “insider attacks” this year alone, and the deaths were “sapping public opinion and public morale”.
“That is why we are determined to solve this problem, to nip this trend in the bud and make sure we get on top of this,” he said.
“That means that the UK partnering and mentoring operations will continue substantially unchanged by this order,” Mr Hammond said.
“It is a tactical measure, decided by commanders in theatre.
Labour MP Paul Flynn was thrown out of the Commons chamber after refusing to retract an allegation that defence ministers had lied over Afghanistan.
“The role of our brave soldiers is to act as human shields for ministers’ reputations,” said the Newport West MP. “I believe we have had lies from the ministers and I believe that our soldiers have been let down.”
Meanwhile, townsfolk in Warminster, where the 3rd Yorkshire Regt are based, continued to sign a book of condolence in a chapel in the town centre yesterday, as more tributes were paid to the two soldiers.
Pte Wroe’s Company Sergeant Major, Duncan Wyeth, said he was good friends with the father of the 18-year-old soldier, who had only recently left the regiment, while Capt Oliver Sparks said of Pte Wroe: “He impressed from the outset and threw himself into pre-tour training with an impressive vigour.”