British troops 'in worst fighting since Korea'

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Indy Politics

British soldiers in Afghanistan are engaged in the most intense conflict faced by the UK since the Korean War, according to the Nato commander in the country.

The comments by Lieutenant General David Richards, the British officer in charge of Western forces in Afghanistan, came with the news that another soldier had been killed - the 11th to die in eight weeks.

The soldier died in a traffic accident at the British headquarters, Camp Souter, in Kabul. He was named as Leigh Reeves, 25, of Leicester, who was serving with the Royal Logistic Corps. Soldiers at the base have created a temporary memorial to him with flowers and a photograph.

Camp Souter is home to the British military contingent serving with the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf). A spokesman said the cause of the accident was being investigated, but insurgents were not involved. No one else was injured.

Lt-Gen Richards spoke of British troops involved in "days and days of intense fighting, being woken up by yet another attack when they have not slept for 24 hours. This sort of thing has not happened so consistently, I don't think, since the Korean War or the Second World War.

"It happened for periods in the Falklands, obviously, and it happened for short periods in the Gulf on both occasions. But this is persistent low-level dirty fighting."

Lt-Gen Richards plans to pull British troops out of some outlying posts, which had come under sustained attacks. They will be replaced by Afghan forces.

The general also stated that extra helicopters and equipment were needed to cope with the danger posed by a resurgent Taliban.

Meanwhile the chairman of the Commons Defence Committee has revealed his concerns that the British operation in Afghanistan "was being done on a shoe string". The Conservative MP James Arbuthnot said: "We are not spending enough money on the troops we are putting into danger, and we are asking [them] to do extremely difficult things on our behalf." The committee warned of a similar situation in Iraq. It called for patrol vehicles to be strengthened to provide greater protection, and for additional helicopters to be supplied.

The Defence Secretary, Des Browne, has insisted that British forces were "stretched, but not overstretched".

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