British soldier killed in Afghanistan

Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Helmand is one of the thirty-four provinces of Afghanistan. It is in the south-west of the country. Its capital is Lashkargah. The Helmand River flows through the mainly desert region, proving irrigation. The population is 1,011,600 and the surface area is 23,058 square miles. The population is largely Pashtun. Helmand produces 20% of the world's opium.

The Ministry of Defence has named a British soldier from the 3 Para Battle Group who died while on patrol in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province.

The soldier, 19 year-old Private Damien Raymond Jackson, of South Shields, Tyne and Wear, came under fire from Taliban forces in the town of Sangin. He died while being given treatment.

His father, Daniel Jackson said: "I wish everyone to know just how extremely proud I am of my son Damien - of all that he has achieved in his lifetime and of the fact that he died, when duty called, protecting others, in the service of his country.

"A fine, upstanding South Shields lad, Damien was immensely proud to have achieved his ultimate ambition in becoming a member of the finest regiment in the British Army."

He also condemned the government's policy in Afghanistan, saying that UK forces are in "dreadful danger". "We fully support the British Army in Afghanistan whilst in no way supporting or condoning a government policy, which has placed our young men and women in such dreadful danger."

Private Jackson's death means six British soldiers have died in the unstable Helmand region in the last four weeks. Since 2001 when operations began in Afghanistan, thirteen British soldiers have lost their lives.

On Saturday, two British soldiers were killed after a rocket-propelled grenade struck the headquarters they were in.

Prime Minister Tony Blair said he would give more resources to British troops to assist them in their fight against the Taliban, but he said the British Army has not yet made such a request.

"If they need more, we will make sure that they get more," he told the House of Commons during Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.

Along with the Conservative Party leader David Cameron, Mr Blair also commended the efforts of British soldiers by praising their "extraordinary and heroic job".

"They are fighting a battle that I think is important not just for the security of Afghanistan. It is important for the security of the wider world," the Prime Minister said.

Approximately 4,000 British soldiers are stationed in Afghanistan, and almost 3,000 of them work in Helmand Province.

In general, they are in Afghanistan to help train the country's troops, provide security, and assist with reconstruction. As 20% of the world’s opium is produced in Helmand Province, the main task for troops there is to control drugs lords.