Soldier praises comrades as Brits pull out of area

IPSWICH: Councillor turned soldier Alasdair Ross today spoke of his pride in the work of his comrades as they handed over to the Americans in a notorious part of Afghanistan.

Mr Ross, a career soldier who left the forces earlier this decade, volunteered to return for a sixth-month tour with The Rifles in Helmand province last year.

For most of that time he was based in Sangin, an area which has now been handed over to American troops by the British army.

Now safely back in Ipswich and having resumed his duties as a Labour borough councillor, Mr Ross said he understood the reasons for the British pull-out.

He said: “Sangin is a very difficult place to operate in. It requires a huge number of troops to keep it safe – you need to have troops on every corner.

“The British do not have the resources to maintain that level of security indefinitely. We can do much better working in central Helmand.”

Mr Ross said the contribution of local soldiers from the Royal Anglian Regiment should not be forgotten.

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“They were the first into Sangin and allowed the market to become re-established about four years ago. Their work was crucial.”

He also dismissed fears that handing over Sangin to the Americans could threaten “nation-building” objectives.

Mr Ross said: “The Afghan army are doing great work there and are taking a huge number of casualties, but differences between the Americans and British have been over-stated.

“There was a time when the British were known for a more softly softly approach but that isn’t really applicable in Sangin.

“We built a school there – but children are not able to go to the school because their parents fear for their safety.

“And the Americans are nowhere near as gung-ho as some people think they may have been in the past.”

Mr Ross added that operations in Helmand Province remained under the command of a British general.

n Should British troops stay in Afghanistan? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk