Page last updated at 16:40 GMT, Tuesday, 18 August 2009 17:40 UK

'Soldiers let down' says mother

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Hazel Hunt said she had been counting down the days to her son's return home

The mother of the 200th British soldier killed in Afghanistan has accused politicians of leaving troops "short-changed".

Hazel Hunt's son, Richard, 21, of the 2nd Battalion the Royal Welsh, died on Saturday after being injured on patrol.

She said troops needed more and better equipment and called Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth "stupid and arrogant".

Mr Ainsworth has predicted UK forces could hand over many frontline duties to Afghan troops in about a year.

General Sir Richard Dannatt, the head of the army, has also called for more equipment to counter the threat of roadside bombs.

Hazel Hunt
Bob Ainsworth is being utterly delusional - for centuries people have been invading and fighting in Afghanistan... we have been kicked out twice and the Russians couldn't manage it
Hazel Hunt, Pte Richard Hunt's mother

Gen Dannatt, who stands down later this month, also predicted that British troops could be on the ground in Afghanistan for five years.

Mrs Hunt's attack came as the Ministry of Defence prepared to name three soldiers killed in an explosion while on patrol in Afghanistan.

Mrs Hunt, 49, a nurse, from Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, told the Daily Mail that Mr Ainsworth should spend time on the front line to understand how desperate troops were for more men and equipment.

She said: "He hasn't got a clue. It makes me very angry when our top military commanders demand extra resources but nothing is forthcoming.

"The army has been short-changed and the troops are suffering because of it.

'Losing our boys'

"But the politicians are not listening to the troops on the ground.

"They've got to find more resources, better equipment and make sure there's enough of it."

Later, speaking to BBC Wales, she added: "The last 20 casualties were all because of roadside bombs. You can put more armour on their machines but they [the Taliban] are just making bigger bombs.

"They've got to find a different way so we stop losing our boys."

She compared to the situation in Afghanistan to World War I.

She added: "Politicians should listen to the military who know what they're capable of and what they need, but if they say what they need it's pooh-poohed. That makes me angry."

Pte Hunt, a farmer's son, was born in Pembrokeshire and grew up in Abergavenny. He had been part of a vehicle patrol from A Company the 2nd Battalion the Royal Welsh when it was hit by an improvised explosive device near Musa Qa'la.

Mrs Hunt said her son had always wanted a career as a soldier.

"Even as little boy he was always playing soldiers," she said. "He was so proud to be in the 2nd Battalion Royal Welsh.

"I call him my brave, beautiful boy which he would be highly embarrassed at.

"He loved life, he loved having a good time and I suppose that philosophy is you are here - enjoy it while you can - and he did."

Pte Hunt died in a Birmingham hospital on Saturday, two days after his vehicle patrol had been hit by an explosion in Helmand Province.

Mrs Hunt said: "We did get that chance to be there with him, to talk to him, kiss him and tell him that we loved him and how proud we were of him.

"A lot of poor parents don't get that chance."

Mrs Hunt said: "Bob Ainsworth is being utterly delusional. For centuries people have been invading and fighting in Afghanistan. We have been kicked out twice and the Russians couldn't manage it.

"Unless Nato is completely co-ordinated, it is going to happen again. There needs to be a clear plan. Without one our soldiers will carry on dying.

"Bob Ainsworth has made some very silly comments in the past few days and he has only been in the job for five minutes. I think he is speaking too soon and out of turn. He has been stupid and arrogant."

Among the resources being demanded by commanders in the field are increased numbers of unmanned aerial drones which can be used to spot improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

The Ministry of Defence said it would not be responding to concerns raised by Mrs Hunt but its position on the various issues was a matter of record.



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