Casualty warning before Afghan offensive

By politics.co.uk staff

Families of British soldiers serving in Afghanistan have been told to brace themselves to expect casualties as an offensive against the Taliban is launched.

The push around the town of Marja in Helmand province, codenamed Operation Moshtarak (‘Together’), will feature Afghan, American and British soldiers.

Unlike last summer’s Operation Panther’s Claw, defence secretary Bob Ainsworth has pre-empted the assault by warning that casualties have to be expected.

“People will do everything they can to minimise casualties and that’s forefront in the minds of people who plan all of our operations,” he said.

“But we shouldn’t deny or pretend to people we can provide security and that casualties are not a very real risk on these kind of operations. People have to be prepared for that.”

During yesterday’s interview the defence secretary admitted that British forces had previously been involved in talks with non-ideological members of the Taliban at the same time as military operations were being conducted against them.

“We shouldn’t wait and there’s no need for us to wait until some end-point before we start talking to those elements of the Taliban that don’t share all of the ideological aims of their leaders,” he added.

“Those talks have been going on for some time.”

The offensive comes less than two weeks after London hosted an international summit on Afghanistan which underlined the importance of trying to lure reconcilable Taliban fighters away from the insurgency.