Page last updated at 13:12 GMT, Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Plea to limit mail for UK troops in Afghanistan

A soldier with a huge pile of mail bags
Nearly 39,000 bags of mail were transported in two months

A 63% rise in the volume of Christmas post for troops in Afghanistan has made for problems in front-line deliveries.

The "overwhelming" support is greatly appreciated, said defence chiefs.

However, they are prioritising mail from loved-ones and distributing a poster to ask the public to back forces charities instead of sending parcels.

The military wants to minimise the number of risky road convoys in a year when 102 personnel have died. A suicide bombing killed two men on Tuesday.

In October and November, the British Forces Post Office shipped 38,985 bags of mail to Afghanistan - compared with 23,804 the year before.

Much is sent from relatives and close friends and guidance is offered on how best to ensure this gets through, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said.

However, a large portion consists of welfare parcels sent out via local appeals and members of the public.

A soldier sorts through mail
It is very important to make sure that people express their support in the right way to make the biggest difference in helping our troops
Armed Forces Minister Bill Rammell

This massive increase in post is having "a serious impact at the sharp end", the MoD said.

Lt Col David Wakefield, spokesman for Task Force Helmand, said: "Getting the post to our main distribution point in Camp Bastion... is easily managed."

However, he said delivering to patrol and forward operating bases (FOB) was problematic because of the danger posed by roadside bombs.

"Every road move of a convoy to a FOB or patrol base is dangerous," he said.

The poster being distributed to businesses, supermarket chains and military establishments advises people to visit the MoD website to choose the best charity to support.

One of the charities is suggests is the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association Operational Welfare Fund, which provides free telephone calls and internet access.

Other charities, the uk4u Thanks! Christmas Box scheme, Support Our Soldiers and Thank the Forces, send parcels in a way that does not "clog up" the operational postal system.

Armed Forces Minister, Bill Rammell, said he was "delighted" so many people had shown such "incredible" support.

But he added: "It is very important to make sure that people express their support in the right way to make the biggest difference in helping our troops on the ground."

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