The most senior British officer killed in Afghanistan warned his bosses shortly before his death that a lack of helicopters was endangering British soldiers, the Daily Mail reported.
Lieutenant Colonel Rupert Thorneloe’s warning contradicts Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s position that a rise in British deaths in the Afghan conflict was not down to a helicopter shortage.
Thorneloe, 39, was killed by a roadside bomb on July 1 while travelling in a convoy in Helmand province, south Afghanistan.
Brown told parliament that month that British forces had enough helicopters in Afghanistan.
July was the deadliest month for British troops since the start of the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, with 21 soldiers killed. A total of 223 British troops have died there since October 2001.
According to the report, Thorneloe addressed the issue in a confidential weekly update to commanders in London dated June 5.
“I have tried to avoid griping about helicopters we all know we don’t have enough,” his message said, according to the Daily Mail.
“We cannot not move people, so this month we have conducted a great deal of administrative movement by road.
This increases the IED (improvised explosive device) threat and our exposure to it.” He had received only half the helicopters he had requested for operations that week, according to the report, and had “virtually no” helicopters to move troops by air.
The newspaper said it had not printed the precise details of his complaints because their publication might endanger the lives of British troops in Afghanistan.
Brown’s critics argued that a shortage has forced British soldiers to use roads where they regularly become targets for bombs set by insurgents.
The newspaper said the documents were leaked by a defence ministry official to opposition Conservative lawmaker Adam Holloway, a former army officer.
Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth said the government was committed to providing more helicopters for the military.
“We know the value of helicopters on operations and that commanders could do with more,” he said in a statement.
“That is why we are increasing the numbers and types, improved engines and almost doubled flying hours.”
Pic: British Prime Minister -Gordan Brown