Yesterday the death toll of British soldiers in Afghanistan reached 400 after Six British soldiers were missing, believed killed, after a massive explosion in Afghanistan.
The men were on patrol in a hazardous area on the border between Helmand and Kandahar provinces when the Warrior armoured personnel carrier they were travelling in was blown up. The ferocity of the blast flipped the vehicle upside down and sheared off the gun turret, starting a fire which ignited ammunition stored inside.
The soldiers, five from the 3rd Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment and one from the 1st Battalion The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment, were just a week into their tour of duty. Troops in a second vehicle which was left relatively undamaged attempted to get to those inside the stricken Warrior, but were beaten back by flames and the risk of secondary explosions. Other forces which arrived soon after the initial reports of what had happened on Tuesday spent most of the night gathering remains and returning them to their base at Camp Bastion.
The commander of Task Force Helmand, Brigadier Patrick Sanders, said the Warrior involved in the blast suffered "catastrophic damage". The armoured personnel carriers, used extensively by forces on frontline duty in Afghanistan and Iraq, were due for a billion-pound upgrade, including equipment which would allow greater flexibility on attaching armour, announced by David Cameron last autumn.
The blast that killed the British servicemen occurred in an area which the Taliban consider their heartland but which was supposedly "cleared" of insurgents in a series of operations by US, British and Afghan forces. The attack shows the ease with which Afghan fighters are able to return and place improvised explosive devices (IEDs) at relatively little risk to themselves but with lethal impact.
Western and Afghan officials insist that large numbers of bombs have been recovered after tip-offs from locals. But although the Talibs had previously been driven away from the border area between Helmand and Kandahar, they have repeatedly returned and been able to set up bases, either because residents of the sparsely-populated hamlets are intimidated, or because they actually support the Taliban.
Local people are aware that Nato troops will be leaving soon, and there is uncertainty about the ability of Afghan security forces to protect them from the insurgents in the aftermath. There is also confusion caused by statements from the government of Hamid Karzai and Western states about negotiating with the Taliban, and what degree of power the Islamists will hold in the future.
Sadly the poor soldiers died for absolutely nothing. It looks clearer and clearer that the Taliban will be back, will oust the scumbag Karzai (who is turning more and more repressive by the day, certainly in respect of the women of Afghanistan). It galls me that our troops are dying for what is effectively a return to the status quo with women treated as lower than chattels