Afghanistan death toll reaches 204

British troops "making progress" insist military chiefs as explosion in Helmand province claims thre

British military chiefs have insisted that troops in Afghanistan remain determined to bring security to the country despite the UK military death toll passing 200.

Three British soldiers died following an explosion near Sangin in Helmand province on Sunday morning, taking the number of UK fatalities to 204.
Lt Col Nick Richardson, spokesman for Task Force Helmand, insisted that British troops were making progress.

"The soldiers are undeterred, they're very focused on what they're doing here and they are very determined," he told BBC News.

"Actually each fatality probably hardens their resolve and their determination to continue making progress.

"It's slow but we're making it day by day and we're helping improve the day to day lives of the Afghan people and also prevent the export of terrorism to the streets of the UK and wider."

He added that Operation Panther's Claw, the recent military offensive against the Taliban, had provided Afghans with the security needed to register for the upcoming election.

"Panther's Claw has brought security to an area that potentially holds about 80,000 people.

"Very, very soon - a matter of two or three days after the fighting stopped there, we were able to facilitate the voter registration teams going in - the Afghan teams - to allow the locals to register to vote here on Thursday.

"That was a success and a measure of progress in itself. Without our security being brought to that area, in concert with the Afghan national security forces, the locals in that area would not have been able to register to vote and subsequently to vote in the forthcoming elections."

Gordon Brown said that the high level of British casualties in July and August had made it "one of the most difficult summers yet" but added that the troops were engaged in a "vital" mission to protect Britain from terrorism.

The latest deaths come as a new poll shows that more than three-quarters of the population do not think the government is doing enough to support British troops. Only 12 per cent of those surveyed said that troops were well-supplied.

The YouGov/Sky News poll also found that 57 per cent believe that British troops should not be fighting in the country.