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Britain Suffers 300 Afghan War Deaths

The coffin of Andrew Breeze, a British lance corporal killed in Afghanistan, arrived June 17 at Royal Air Force base Lyneham. | Rob Leyland/Ministry of Defense, via Reuters

Britain marked its 300th military death in the Afghanistan war on Monday, a milestone that Prime Minister David Cameron described as “desperately bad news” and a reminder that Britain was “paying a high price for keeping our country safe.”

The milestone, gloomily awaited in Britain in recent weeks, was reached with the death on Sunday of a Royal Marine in a hospital in Birmingham. He was flown there after being wounded by a roadside bomb in the southwestern Afghan province of Helmand on June 12. He has not yet been identified.

Among the foreign powers involved in the war, Britain has suffered casualties second only to the 1,126 of the United States. But the British losses are higher proportionally when set against the two nations’ populations, overall military manpower and Afghanistan deployments. Britain, with about 60 million people, has nearly 10,000 troops in Afghanistan. The United States, with five times the population and its commitment still building from the 30,000-troop surge ordered by President Obama last year, has about 94,000 troops there.

In both countries, the governments have come under political pressure from faltering public support for the war. The statement from Mr. Cameron — who visited British troops in Helmand 10 days ago — reflected the growing sense that his government, in office barely six weeks, is resolved not to allow itself to be dragged into an open-ended military commitment.

“Of course, the 300th death is no more or less tragic than the 299 that came before,” Mr. Cameron said. “But it is a moment, I think, for the whole country to reflect on the incredible service and sacrifice and dedication that our armed services give on our behalf.”

“We are paying a high price for keeping our country safe, for making our world a safer place, and we should keep asking why we are there and how long we must be there,” he added. “The truth is that we are there because the Afghans are not yet ready to keep their own country safe and to keep terrorists and terrorist training camps out of their country. That’s why we have to be there.

“But as soon as they are able to take care of security for their own country, that is when we can leave,” he said.

Src & Text: [nytimes]

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