185th British soldier died in Afghanistan
Posted on July 17th, 2009

By Janaka Alahapperuma

Another British soldier has been killed in Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence said Friday, following a surge in killings there which has piled pressure on the government over military resources. He is the 16th British Army soldier to be killed this month alone and also 185th death since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.

The soldier from the 2nd Battalion of the Rifles died in an explosion while on a foot patrol near Gereshk in the volatile southern Helmand province on Thursday afternoon.

“It is with extreme sadness that I must report the death of a brave soldier. He laid down his life for his country and for the good people of Afghanistan.” said Lieutenant Colonel Nick Richardson, spokesman for Task Force Helmand.

Britain has about 9,000 troops in Afghanistan, the vast majority of them in Helmand, which has been a focus of fighting against Taliban insurgents. British and U.S. forces are currently involved in a major operation to try to recapture territory from the Taliban in the province. Both Forces are heavily equipped with highly sophisticated modern weaponry, technology and training.

However the growing number of recent deaths, casualties and the difficulty face defeating Taliban terrorism have raised questions over whether Britain has enough soldiers on the ground and the right equipment for the job — and even if British troops should be there at all. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown says the presence in Afghanistan is vital to prevent militants linked to the Taliban and Al Qaeda from exporting terrorism to the West and also to the streets of Britain.

The head of the army, General Richard Dannatt, added to pressure on Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Friday just after announcing the recent deaths by calling for more troops and equipment.

News of the death comes on the day of the funeral of the 18 year old 2nd Royal Tank Regiment trooper Joshua Hammond, who was killed by a roadside bomb, an improvised explosive device hit his Viking armoured vehicle in Helmand province in Afghanistan. He died alongside Lieutenant Colonel Rupert Thorneloe, who was laid to rest on Thursday. A private service for the teenager from Plymouth took place at St Andrew’s Church in his hometown.. At the time of his death, Prime Minister Brown paid tribute to Trooper Hammond, saying he was “a very brave young man”.

Lt Col Thorneloe, Commanding Officer 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, is the most senior serviceman to be killed in Afghanistan since operations began in October 2001.

The spike in the death toll has prompted wide-scale criticism of the level of Government support for UK troops on the frontline. The Opposition party has put pressure on Mr Brown to increase equipment and troop numbers.

On Thursday, it emerged that Chief of the General Staff Sir Richard Dannatt had to hitch a ride in an American Black Hawk helicopter to visit British troops in Sangin. In last June UK forces have launched a large-scale operation to drive the Taliban out of strongholds in around Helmand. The operation has been strengthened by a similar US-led operation in the south of the country, involving more than 4,000 American troops and Afghan soldiers.

With this latest victim in Afghanistan, British Forces have lost six more soldiers than the total death toll in Iraq war.

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