Officer speaks of high casualty rate

AN officer commanding Royal Anglian troops battling the Taliban in southern Afghanistan has revealed that almost a fifth of his soldiers had become casualties of the intense conflict.

AN officer commanding Royal Anglian troops battling the Taliban in southern Afghanistan has revealed that almost a fifth of his soldiers had become casualties of the intense conflict.

In addition to nine soldiers killed, the 600-strong 1st battalion has suffered well over 100 casualties of whom 72 have been serious enough to be flown home to the UK for treatment.

Speaking on the day that Pte Aaron McClure was buried in Ipswich, Lt Col Stuart Carver said: “We have had 114 casualties out of a total strength of 600 in the past five months, which is about 20per cent.

“About half of those have been as a result of enemy action, the remainder a mixture of broken bones, heat exhaustion and other injuries. What it says is that we have been involved in a fairly bloody conventional campaign.”

But he rejected suggestions that appeared recently in the press that his soldiers were suffering casualty levels higher than those sustained by US troops in the Vietnam war.

“There was a lot of statistical creativity in producing that assertion, which wasn't particularly helpful and only resulted in extra worry for the families - especially the claim that there was a 1 in 36 chance of dying out here.”

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However he believes his men have had great success in driving the Taliban back in the Helmand valley. Having fired more than half a million small arms rounds so far, his men have claimed more than 800 Taliban lives.

But he acknowledges that the nine Royal Anglian deaths have taken its toll on the battalion.

“I have been amazed at how people have taken the news of the casualties,” he said. “You expect sadness and sorrow - that is a natural human reaction, but after each tragic death after a short dip the overwhelming view has been about the need to crack on with the job - but the losses have been difficult.”

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