[Marxism] British military seeks more NATO troops for Afghan.; families say soldiers are "shattered"

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Sat Sep 16 20:56:42 MDT 2006


	'Our boys are so shattered' ... families plead for more
Afghanistan troops 

Defence Secretary to call for reinforcements from Nato amid claims that
British soldiers are just too tired to fight 

Mark Townsend, defence correspondent
Sunday September 17, 2006
The Observer <http://www.observer.co.uk/>  


Relatives of British troops serving in Afghanistan's Helmand province
have raised serious concerns over the safety of soldiers, claiming many
are so exhausted they are finding it difficult to operate properly. 

A growing number of wives, mothers, girlfriends and sisters have decided
to speak out over the 'intolerable' pressures on loved ones amid fears
that, unless more Nato countries agree to send extra troops, the
situation will deteriorate further.

The women describe how soldiers they have spoken to have had one day off
in eight weeks because of relentless fighting with Taliban forces and
are surviving on just three hours sleep.

'They are absolutely shattered; after a 10-hour gun battle my son is so
exhausted he can barely speak,' said one mother whose son has been
stationed in the volatile Sangin region of Helmand for two months.
Families also reveal that the supply of rations to the more remote
British camps remains so erratic they are sending food parcels amid
complaints troops are suffering weight loss.

One mother said fatigue was one of the most dangerous issues and that it
was causing mistakes. Her 19-year-old son in the Household Cavalry
Regiment had lost a close friend after an accident involving an armoured
vehicle. Her son had been left stranded in Sangin after their Scimitar
broke down and they could not obtain the right part. She said:
'Eventually they tried to repair the Scimitar themselves, but were
absolutely exhausted. One man jacked it up on sand, went underneath the
vehicle and it collapsed, crushing his head.'

The mother said her son twice rang the army's main base in southern
Afghanistan - Camp Bastion - requesting help, but none was available:
'They were on their hands and knees trying to save him, but it was too
late. They were absolutely traumatised.'

The concerns come as Ministry of Defence officials remain 'hopeful' that
more nations in the Nato alliance will agree to send extra troops to
Helmand when urgent talks are held this Thursday. Nato generals want an
extra 2,500 troops for the operation in southern Afghanistan. Poland has
promised to send 1,000 troops, but they will not arrive until February.

The Defence Secretary, Des Browne, will make an impassioned call to the
Nato alliance at the Royal United Services Institute on Tuesday amid
fears that, unless help is forthcoming, more British troops will be lost
and Nato's credibility further damaged.

One mother, whose teenage son has been stationed in Sangin for the past
five weeks, said: 'He has been surviving on three hours a sleep a night
for five weeks, sleeping on rocks covered in cardboard. The men are
absolutely exhausted.'

Sue Wallace from Brighton said her brother had been in a remote outpost
in Sangin, scene of some of the bitterest fighting, for seven weeks
without a break. 'They are not being rotated,' she said. 'They need rest
and recuperation - and proper meals - if they want the job done
properly,' she said.

One grandmother from Colchester has two 24-year-old grandsons fighting
abroad, one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. It is the one based in
Helmand whom she fears she may never see again. 'I nearly lost him two
weeks go,' she said. 'They were ambushed, the sergeant behind him was
hit and the bullet ricocheted into his spine. He still cannot move.'

Relatives also claim that loved ones are being put at risk by inadequate
equipment.

One mother said her son had been fighting in Sangin for more than two
months and had only received his upgraded body armour last week. 'For 10
weeks, he had no proper protection. That makes my blood boil,' she said.

Others told how troops are forced to ration water because of irregular
supplies. Wallace said her mother was sending her brother 2kg food
parcels to keep him going. He has lost two stone since arriving in
Afghanistan.

'He is losing so much weight that he says his legs are pretty much bone.
He does not sound happy on the phone.' So far they have sent £200 of
noodles, nuts and crisps to help maintain his strength.

Other mothers say that, while they were initially apprehensive before
their sons were sent to Afghanistan, they never imagined it would be so
dangerous. Jeanette Reid said her son, James, 22, of the Royal Logistics
Corps, had served in Iraq three times, but nothing he experienced there
compared to Afghanistan. 'I always thought Afghanistan was going to be a
bit more intense than Iraq, and I was right,' she said.

Britain has lost 35 soldiers in the past six months in Helmand. New MoD
figures reveal that another 211 have been injured.BerBr


 
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