Yesterday morning a British soldier was killed as a result of small arms fire near Sangin, in Helmand Province.
He belonged to A Company 4 RIFLES, part of the 3 RIFLES Battle Group and was killed in a fire-fight with insurgents at Patrol Base Bariolai to the north of Sangin District Centre.
His death was the result of gun-shot wounds sustained during an insurgent attack on the Patrol Base involving small arms and rocket-propelled grenades. We have now lost 271 of our armed forces in this war.
British fatality rates in Afghanistan are much higher than those of US and Canadian forces and now there's growing evidence that helicopter shortages could be a major factor. Professor Sheila Bird (a top statistician) and Clive Fairweather (a former SAS colonel) discovered that between May 2009 and February this year the British death rate of 14.6 per 1000 personnel years was much worse than both the Canadians (10.8) and the Americans (5.7). 1000 personnel years is equivalent to 4000 troops in theatre for three months.
Professor Bird believes further explanation is needed, insisting 'chance is not the explanation.'
Canada, in 2009, increased air support to 5.6 helicopters per 1000 personnel. At the same time Britain had a meagre 3.3 per 1000. Since May 2009 Canada's military fatalities have seen 27 deaths rather than the expected 55, leaving British forces with the worst death rate.
A MoD spokeswoman said: " To present fatality rates in this way is a misunderstanding of the nature of operations."
I should think Professor Bird and Mr Fairweather used the same criteria for the US, Canada and the UK.