British commander in Afghanistan quits

A commander of Britain’s elite special forces in Afghanistan has resigned, a defence source said on Saturday, declining to give further details.

Major Sebastian Morley, a reservist commander with the Special Air Service (SAS), blamed a chronic lack of investment in equipment for the deaths of some of his soldiers, according to the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

He described the failure to equip his troops with heavy armoured vehicles as “cavalier at best, criminal at worst”, the paper reported.

The Ministry of Defence and the government have faced repeated criticism from senior officers and politicians over equipment shortages in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Last month, a coroner said defence chiefs should “hang their heads in shame” over the lack of proper equipment and training that contributed to the death of a British soldier during a rescue in an Afghan minefield.

The Telegraph report said Morley thought his soldiers were needlessly put at risk because they were forced to travel in lightly armoured Land Rovers rather than heavier vehicles.

He blamed “chronic underinvestment” for the deaths in June of four British soldiers killed by a landmine which destroyed their Land Rover in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan.

One of those killed was Corporal Sarah Bryant, the first British female soldier to be killed in Afghanistan.

Morley could not be reached for comment. A Ministry of Defence spokesman said it never comments on the SAS.

He issued a statement saying: “Equipping our personnel is a clear priority and we are absolutely focussed on providing them with a range of vehicles that will protect them from the ever-shifting threats posed by the enemy.

“Just this week we announced a 700 million pounds spend on more than 700 new and upgraded armoured vehicles.

“This was on top of the 10 billion pounds of new equipment delivered to the forces in the past three years.”

Britain joined the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and still has about 8,100 troops there fighting the Taliban and training Afghan forces. (Reporting by Peter Griffiths; Editing by Louise Ireland)

Reuters North American News Service