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Excalibur Unit.....

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British Fatalities

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THE official inquiry into Britain’s involvement in the Iraq war was published on July 6th and, after almost seven years, has taken longer than the British campaign itself. Sir John Chilcot’s report found that not all peaceful options had been exhausted in the lead up to the war and the invasion was by no means a final resort. From the beginning, military action was never overwhelmingly backed by the public and by the time Britain withdrew that slim support had given way to fervent opposition.

Since the end of the second world war, 2016 is only the second year so far in which British military engagements have not resulted in the death of at least one member of the armed forces; 1968 was the other. In all, Britain has been involved in 29 deployments since 1945 and has suffered a total loss of 7,186 lives. In this context the number of deaths during the Iraq war, however tragic, are low. Fewer troops were killed in the six-year deployment than in the two-and-half-month Falklands war in 1982. Looking further back the campaign against communist insurgents in Malaya stands out as the single deadliest with 1,443 British fatalities over a 12-year period. But Britain is still involved in several operations around the world including Afghanistan. The latter, prompted by the terrorist attacks in America in 2001, has so far claimed the lives of 456 British personnel. Though Iraq may be the most controversial British conflict of the past few decades, it is by no means the deadliest.

The decision of Tony Blair, the former prime minister, to take Britain into the Iraq war in 2003 was controversial from the start. It drove a wedge between him and his allies in France and Germany. About a million people marched in London against the decision. Mr Blair’s rationale was twofold: to remove Saddam Hussein (“regime change”) in the interests of the Iraqi people and broader regional stability, and to eradicate the threat Hussein’s regime posed to Britain. In selling the intervention to the British public, the government focused on the latter and in particular on a claim that Hussein had weapons of mass destruction which he could deploy within 45 minutes. Doubts about these arguments, combined with the long, violent wake of the invasion, have made the decision to go into Iraq politically toxic. Particularly unpopular in Britain is Mr Blair’s relationship with George W. Bush, then America's president. Did Mr Blair and his advisers, too doe-eyed about Britain’s superpower ally, brush aside valid objections? The subject, or aspects of it, had been officially reviewed several times when, in 2009, Gordon Brown, Mr Blair's successor, ordered the Chilcot inquiry: reflecting, as the last British troops left Iraq, that questions remained about the decision-making behind the intervention (cynics reckoned it was also a bid to draw a line under the Blair years).

In the nearly seven years since then Sir John and his committee have reviewed 150,000 documents. Their final report contains 2.6m words. David Cameron and relatives of the 179 servicemen killed in the conflict received advance sight of it on July 5th. Newspaper reports claim that among those criticised are the spooks who marshalled the evidence underpinning Mr Blair’s decision in 2003 and those responsible for post-invasion planning.

In political terms the biggest question is this: how much fault does the report ascribe to Mr Blair? Recently the former prime minister has softened his otherwise firm defence of his decision; last October he acknowledged mistakes and apologised for faults in the intelligence. Still, for some no criticism of the former prime minister will be harsh enough. At a time of major distrust in elites and establishments there will surely be cries of “whitewash!”, whatever the report says.

It is with very deep regret that the Ministry of Defence has confirmed the following fatalities suffered during operations in Afghanistan.

As of the year ending 2016 a total of 456 British forces personnel or MOD civilians have died while serving in Afghanistan since the start of operations in October 2001.

Of these, 407 were killed as a result of hostile action.

49 are known to have died either as a result of illness, non-combat injuries or accidents, or have not yet officially been assigned a cause of death pending the outcome of an investigation. The balance of these figures may change as inquests are concluded.

War On Terror

Start 2001 -- Ongoing
Military Dead 510
civillian Dead 144
Total Dead 654

Iraq War [operation telic]

Start 2003 -- 2009
Military Dead 179
Civillian Dead 43
Total Dead 222

Afghanistan [operation herrick]

Start 2001 -- 2014
Military Dead 456
Civillian Dead 101
Total Dead 557