Thursday 7 September 2006

When is it going to stop?

A German Dingo mine protected vehicleVia The Times, agencies and others, we learn with great regret that the Army lost three more soldiers in Afghanistan yesterday, with 11 other troops injured.

Particularly distressing was the death of one of the soldiers after his vehicle hit a land mine, with five other troops also seriously injured. Another soldier received minor injuries.

The incident took place in the north of Helmand province, and occurred after the soldiers' patrol strayed into an unmarked minefield. There was no contact with the Taleban.

Very few news reports mention a vehicle, however, and the MoD have not disclosed the type. The likelihood is that it was a "Snatch" Land Rover. From the number involved and the fact this vehicle is the most widely-used patrol vehicle, the odds point very much towards this.

Another soldier of the three who died today one of the crew who was ambushed by a suicide bomber last Friday – an attack that had already left one soldier dead.

Yet, German forces have recently been subject to an attack by a suicide bomber while one of their patrols also hit a mine. Riding in mine-protected Dingos, however, both crews survived with only very minor injuries.

In May, a Canadian vehicle also ran over a mine after it had been sent to aid a resupply convoy that experienced a breakdown of one of its vehicles.

A Canadian RG-31 NyalaFortunately, the vehicle was an RG-31 Nyala. Although the crew was briefly hospitalised after the incident, Brig. Gen. David Fraser, commander of the Canadian contingent in Afghanistan, was reported to be smiling as he left the hospital after visiting the soldiers.

For the British yesterday, there were no smiles. Yet the tragedy of the mine and suicide bomb incidents is that the deaths and serious injuries were almost certainly preventable. Unlike the other nations providing major force numbers in Afghanistan, though, British soldiers have no mine protected vehicles for carrying out patrols. Had they been German or Canadian, their odds of survival would have been that much higher.

And the only thing on the horizon for the troops are lightly armoured Pinzgauer trucks, which provide no mine protection either.

When the hell is the MoD going to do something about these unnecessary deaths?