Page last updated at 00:20 GMT, Sunday, 2 August 2009 01:20 UK

Sentamu attacks forces' treatment

Dr John Sentamu
Dr Sentamu said the military covenant was under strain

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, has issued a stern challenge to the government over its treatment of soldiers serving in Afghanistan.

In a sermon to mark Yorkshire Day, Dr Sentamu questioned whether troops were being treated in a way commensurate with the risks they took.

It follows controversy over payments to seriously injured troops.

July 2009 saw 22 UK deaths in Afghanistan - the highest monthly tally since the conflict began.

'Strict operation'

In his sermon, Dr Sentamu warned that the military covenant - the understanding that society owes troops a special obligation - had come under increasing strain in recent months.

He added that it was the government's duty to make sure that it was "honoured not only in its strict operation but also in its spirit".

He made it clear that he doubted that troops serving in Afghanistan were getting the treatment they deserved from the government.

The Archbishop - who last year raised more than £100,000 in a parachute jump for the families of troops serving in Afghanistan - said that in return for being ready to make the ultimate sacrifice, soldiers should expect just treatment and respect from the government.

'Shockingly high'

His intervention came as the Ministry of Defence revealed that 51 members of the UK armed forces had had limbs amputated after being wounded in Afghanistan.

But that tally is only up to March this year so does not include recent months, which have seen heavy casualties among UK service personnel.

Col Richard Kemp, ex-commander of UK troops in Afghanistan, told the Sunday Mirror, which had requested the information, that the toll was "shockingly high".

A total of 57 service personnel were wounded in the first two weeks of July, compared with 46 in all of June and 24 in May.

The Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "As of 31 March 2009, a total of 51 UK service personnel have suffered amputations due to injuries sustained while on operational deployment on Operation Herrick."

Col Kemp told the Sunday Mirror: "This is a shockingly high ratio of the number of British troops deployed at any one time in Afghanistan."

Of the injuries in the first 15 days of July, 16 service personnel were seriously or very seriously wounded.

In total, the number of UK troops killed on operations in Afghanistan since 2001 stands at 191.

The rise in injuries and deaths came as coalition forces completed the first phase of their heaviest offensive yet - Operation Panther's Claw - against the Taliban ahead of elections on 20 August.

Against this backdrop, a legal bid by the Ministry of Defence to try to cut the compensation awarded to two injured servicemen has attracted widespread criticism.

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