Page last updated at 12:09 GMT, Monday, 17 August 2009 13:09 UK

Afghanistan death soldiers named

Private Richard Hunt (left) and Sergeant Simon Valentine
Private Richard Hunt and Sergeant Simon Valentine died in Afghanistan

Two of the latest British military fatalities in Afghanistan have been named by the Ministry of Defence.

The 200th soldier to die was Private Richard Hunt, 21, and the 201st was Sergeant Simon Valentine, 29.

Five soldiers lost their lives over the weekend, bringing the number of UK service personnel killed since the start of the campaign to 204.

A total of 13 UK personnel have died this month as troops try to shore up security ahead of elections this week.

Pte Hunt, of The 2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh, died of wounds on Saturday at the Royal College of Defence Medicine, Selly Oak.

He was from Abergavenny and had been wounded while on a vehicle patrol near Musa Qaleh in Helmand Province on 12 August.

Hazel and Phillip Hunt, Pte Hunt's parents said: "His may have been the 200th death, whilst we have lost our son and brother. Our thoughts are also with other injured and bereaved service personnel and their families, at what we know to be one of the most difficult times a family can face."

Sgt Valentine, from Bedworth, Warwickshire, and of 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, was killed on Saturday.

He died as a result of injuries sustained in an explosion that happened while on a foot patrol near Sangin, northern Helmand Province.

It's slow but we're making it day by day and we're helping improve the day to day lives of the Afghan people and also prevent the export of terrorism to the streets of the UK and wider
Lt Col Nick Richardson

His wife Gemma said: "Simon, above all else, was a truly loved father, son, husband and friend. To have known him was to have loved him."

Commitment levels

Meanwhile, the head of the British Army, General Sir Richard Dannatt, has described military operations in Afghanistan as "difficult".

He said: "We will succeed, we must succeed. It's a war amongst the people of Afghanistan, it's a war about the people of Afghanistan.

"In particular we have to persuade the people of Afghanistan to support their government, and not to fall under the influence of the Taliban or to want to support the Taliban."

He also said there would be "this kind of level of commitment by the military" in the country for "two to four years, three to five years", although he added that he did not want to give a specific timetable.

Military chiefs have insisted that British troops in Afghanistan are "undeterred" by the violence.

Lt Col Nick Richardson, spokesman for Task Force Helmand, said British service personnel were making progress.

Father of a soldier killed in Afghanistan on the lack of equipment given to troops

"It's slow but we're making it day by day and we're helping improve the day to day lives of the Afghan people and also preventing the export of terrorism to the streets of the UK and wider."

He said the recent offensive against the Taliban - known as Operation Panther's Claw - had helped the Afghan people take up the chance to vote.

Three British soldiers from the 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers died following an explosion while on patrol near Sangin in Helmand province on Sunday morning.

Meanwhile, Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth says the conflict in Afghanistan is "winnable".

But he said it was "hard to get that message across to the British public".

Progress made

Mr Ainsworth told the BBC that he had confidence in the recent work done by British troops in Afghanistan.

"The troops know that we've made progress in the last few months, and I still firmly believe that Afghanistan is winnable.

"We can get this country to a place where they're able to protect their own security and prevent the Taliban's return."

Service personnel killed in Afghanistain

He added: "Over the next couple of years, there is a very real prospect that we can make substantial progress on the security side in Afghanistan.

"We can see increasingly the Afghan national army and the Afghan national police taking up front-line positions and our people increasingly involved in training and mentoring that force."

He also said that UK troop numbers would be kept under review.

Mr Ainsworth added that it was "becoming almost impossible to say anything without it being taken out of context".

He denied reports he had said control would be handed over to Afghanistan authorities within a year, and said comments by Gen Sir David Richards, the incoming head of the Army, that the UK might have a 40-year role in the country had been misrepresented.

Deadly explosions

The latest deaths follow those of three soldiers killed by roadside bombs while on foot patrol in Helmand on Thursday.

Two had been attempting to help a comrade who had been wounded by an earlier blast.

Bob Ainsworth said he 'firmly believed' the Afghan mission was 'winnable'

Rifleman Daniel Wild, 19, from Easington in County Durham, and Captain Mark Hale, both serving with the 2nd Battalion The Rifles, were carrying Lance Bombardier Matthew Hatton, 23, of 40 Regiment Royal Artillery, from North Yorkshire, when they were hit by a second explosion.

Tony Philippson's son James was one of the first British soldiers to be killed in Afghanistan, and now questions why British forces ever became involved.

"I think we need to analyse in more detail what [the government] set out to do.

"Specifically they said, and John Reid said this with no shots being fired of course, that they had to go into Afghanistan to prevent Al-Qaeda setting up the training camps that were destroyed in 2001 by the American bombing."

Mr Philippson added that by 2006, "Al-Qaeda hadn't set up any training camps in those five years, the atrocities around the world hadn't stopped, they're still in business, they simply didn't need those training camps in Afghanistan, and this connection [Gordon] Brown and Ainsworth make with the streets of Baghdad, Kandahar and London is utter nonsense."

Gordon Brown has admitted that more than 30 deaths during July and August, as British troops went on the offensive to shore up security in time for Afghan elections this week, had made it "one of the most difficult summers yet".

But he insisted they were engaged in a "vital" mission to protect Britain from terrorism and maintain a stable Afghanistan.

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