A soldier from the Royal Veterinary Corps has been killed in a gunfight. Liam Tasker, who was patrolling in the Nahr-e Sahaj district of Hellmand province, was killed last Tuesday. Wing Commander Martin Tinworth stated: “he has given his life in the service of his country.”
The soldier’s death brings the total number of British dead to 358 since 2001. Helmand Province has become synonymous with the high casualty rate endured by British troops, thanks in part to the Taliban’s increasing reliance on IEDs, as well as heavy gunfights. The soldier’s sniffer dog, recognised for finding the most weapons and IEDs in Afghanistan, also died after returning to camp Bastion.
The latest casualty figures come on the heels of the announcement of cuts as ministers attempt to remove billions from the budget. The army can expect to lose as many as five thousand personnel. Ministers have been attacked over the “crass” decision to inform serving soldiers they may be in danger of losing their jobs. Military experts and former officers commented on the inevitable strain on moral these decisions would impose.
The MoD was criticised two weeks ago for sending out an email informing dozens of long-serving NCOs they would shortly be made redundant, including one officer who was serving in Afghanistan at the time of the email. The emails should have been sent to their commanding officers, who would then have relayed the sensitive information.
Ministers are accused of failing in their promise to protect front-line troops from the cuts. Soldiers have endured repeated tours of duty amid some of the most brutal fighting since the Korean War.
The coalition government manifesto promised to protect the military covenant, the duty of care between the nation and it’s serving men and women, but this is a promise that looks set to deteriorate further as the cuts continue.
It is unacceptable to decrease the budget” of our armed forces “whilst expecting them to maintain an international presence
Blame for the cuts and the latest series of errors has been laid squarely on the coalition’s shoulders. When Liam Fox, the Defence Secretary, stood to explain the actions of the Government, there were cries from the Labour backbenches of “resign!”
The Coalition has responded to the allegations by stating their necessity given the £38bn deficit inherited from New Labour. However, whilst in power, Labour slashed the defence budget by up to a fifth, despite simultaneously embarking on numerous peacekeeping operations across the globe in countries like Kosovo, Iraq, and Sudan.
It appears Cameron and Clegg are to follow Blair. Despite announcing 2,700 jobs are to be axed from the RAF, of those around 100 are newly trained or training pilots, the government are apparently in talks to instil a no-fly zone over Libya.
The government must make a decision, as it is unacceptable to decrease the budget available to our armed forces, whilst simultaneously expecting them to maintain an international presence. To do so damages the troops on the frontline, be it physically or psychologically, and undermines any authority we might have on the world stage.