Sunday, February 7, 2010
By Marco Giannangeli, Sunday Express
BOYS as young as 12 are being sent to lay roadside bombs near British bases in Afghanistan.
While Taliban fighters cower behind walls, out of sight of British snipers, the children run the risk of carrying the rudimentary and highly volatile explosive devices which sometimes explode before they can be positioned.
Lieutenant Colonel Jedge Lewin, 41, a surgeon with 3 Rifles Battle Group in Sangrin, northern Helmand said: “In the past few days alone we have had five cases of children who have been exposed to blasts which have caused severe damage to or loss of hands and fingers.
“Children can pick up small explosive devices when they are playing or handle detonators when forced to plant IEDs. This is a cowardly Taliban tactic and when children are suffering the consequences, it’s particularly sickening.”
Last night Colonel Richard Kemp, former head of British forces in Afghanistan, said: “The Taliban have long used civilians, men and women, to draw enemy fire from their positions and the recent use of young children is a sad extension of this. It shows that they’re increasingly desperate. Tactics like this cannot be used indefinitely.”
The vile tactic is being used as thousands of British, US and Afghan troops mount the biggest push in the campaign so far to eliminate the last Taliban strongholds in Helmand Province. More than 9,500 British troops have been joined by 30,000 US marines and a large force of Afghan National Army soldiers in the biggest offensive since the conflict began in 2001. Operation Moshtarak, which means “work together”, will force insurgents out of all populated areas by the end of the year. It comes as the man in charge of all coalition forces, General Stanley McChrystal, said the situation in Afghanistan was “no longer deteriorating”.
The operation will target Taliban positions that commanders have not been able to attack due to a lack of manpower and is part two of a three-part strategy. Part one secured areas in the south, around Kandahar, and improved communications in Helmand province.