Page last updated at 00:07 GMT, Tuesday, 21 July 2009 01:07 UK

MoD names soldier killed in blast

Cpl Joseph Etchells
Mancunian Cpl Etchells was engaged with a baby daughter

A British soldier killed in a blast in southern Afghanistan on Sunday has been named as Corporal Joseph Etchells.

The 22-year-old from Mossley in Greater Manchester served with 2nd Battalion the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers.

Cpl Etchells' death in Sangin, Helmand province, took the UK toll in Afghanistan since operations began in 2001 to 186, including 17 this month.

Head of Nato Jaap De Hoop Scheffer has warned failure in Afghanistan would give al-Qaeda a "free run".

Cpl Etchells' commanding officer, Lt Col Charlie Calder, described the dead soldier as "remarkable".

He said: "His enthusiasm, determination, loyalty and professionalism would have seen him progress with ease through the ranks.

'Born leader'

"Above all he will be remembered for the friendships that he easily made, at home, in barracks or facing daily adversity in Afghanistan."

Cpl Etchells, who was engaged with a baby daughter, joined the regiment aged just 16 and had served in Afghanistan on two previous tours - the first in 2006.

Cpl Joseph Etchells
Cpl Etchells was promoted in 2008

Fusiliers Darren Rushton and James Turnbull, 2 Platoon A Company 2 RRF, said he was an "outstanding soldier" and a "born leader" who had left a massive gap in their ranks.

They said in a statement: "Our hearts go out to his family, his fiancee and their baby girl. He would always talk about his fiancee and how he couldn't wait to get married to the woman of his dreams and watch their daughter grow up."

A keen cross-country runner, Cpl Etchells also represented the Battalion and Garrison side at cricket.

He was promoted last year and was responsible for eight men at the time of his death.

Better equipment

Cpl Etchells had also stood guard for the Queen outside both Buckingham Palace and St James's Palace as part of the Public Duties Battalion.

Many of the recent UK fatalities in Afghanistan have died taking part in Operation Panther's Claw, an assault against insurgents in Helmand ahead of elections.

Some 3,000 troops are involved in the operation, which began on 19 June, although Cpl Etchells was not taking part in it.

The head of the Army, General Sir Richard Dannatt, has called for better equipment to protect troops from roadside bombs in the country.

You could be forgiven for thinking that your forces were fighting in Afghanistan alone. But they are not. They are part of a team
Jaap De Hoop Scheffer
Nato's secretary general

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has repeatedly insisted the Army has enough equipment and denied claims of a helicopter shortage.

Meanwhile, Mr De Hoop Scheffer, Nato's secretary general, has warned that the alliance cannot afford to walk away from Afghanistan - however dangerous or expensive the campaign becomes.

After a meeting with Gordon Brown, Mr De Hoop Scheffer, who stands down next week after five years in his post, said the mission could not afford to fail.

In a speech to the Chatham House foreign affairs thinktank, he said: "If we were to walk away, Afghanistan would fall to the Taliban, with devastating effect for the people there - women in particular.

"Pakistan would suffer the consequences, with all that that implies for international security. Central Asia would see extremism spread.

"Al-Qaeda would have a free run again, and their terrorist ambitions are global."

He acknowledged it had been a "tragic period" for the UK and paid tribute to the "critical job" British forces were doing. But he said UK troops were part of a wider mission.

"If one reads any national press, you could be forgiven for thinking that your forces were fighting in Afghanistan alone. But they are not. They are part of a team," he said.

BBC defence correspondent Caroline Wyatt said Mr Brown had emphasised to the outgoing secretary general the need for other Nato nations to do more, amid frustrations within the alliance that some countries were making greater sacrifices than others.

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