100th British soldier killed in Afghanistan this year

Military leaders urge public not to judge campaign by casualties alone

The UK's military death toll in Afghanistan this year has reached 100, after a member of the 1st Battalion The Royal Anglican Regiment was killed last night in Helmand province.

The soldier died as a result of gunshot wounds in Nad-e-Ali, an area which British forces have been trying to secure over the last few months. The Ministry of Defence said that his next of kin had been informed.

Leaders of the armed forces urged the public not to judge the campaign in Afghanistan by the number of fatalities alone.

General Sir David Richards, head of the army, said: "For those of us in the Army, whilst we grieve for a fallen comrade, his loss hardens our determination to succeed.

"The temptation to judge this essential campaign by casualties alone undervalues the tremendous efforts of our forces and our allies, and the progress they are making."

The death was announced hours before defence secretary Bob Ainsworth arrived to visit troops.

Almost twice as many British service personnel have been killed in Helmand so far this year as in the whole of last year, making 2009 the bloodiest year for UK troops since the Falklands war in 1982.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, chief of the defence staff, said that 2009 had been a "particularly challenging year", but added: "Our armed forces are making a real difference, and are building the basis for enduring success in Afghanistan."

This death brings the total number of deaths of British soldiers in Afghanistan to 237 since 2001. The vast majority of deaths have been caused by improvised explosive devices.

Prime minister Gordon Brown announced last month that 500 more UK troops would be deployed in Afghanistan, taking the total number to more than 10,000. The US is to send 30,000 more soldiers.

After the announcement of this latest casualty, Brown said: "My thoughts, and the entire nation's, are with the families and friends of every one of those brave men who have died this year; indeed, with every one of our service personnel who have lost their lives serving our country in Afghanistan since 2001."

In a speech later today, Conservative shadow defence secretary Liam Fox is expected to criticise some Nato members for not contributing to the campaign, and call on them to fund the campaign if they do not commit troops.

 

Follow the New Statesman team on Twitter