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British soldiers ‘must trust Afghan troops despite rogue attack’

British troops training Afghan soldiers in one of the most dangerous parts of the country said yesterday there was a need to continue to trust their counterparts despite the deaths of three servicemen at the hands of a rogue Afghan National Army sergeant.

Soldiers from Edinburgh-based 1 SCOTS, the Royal Scots Borderers, have been working alongside their Afghan counterparts since they arrived for a six-month tour of duty in Helmand Province in March.

Earlier this week, Major James Joshua Bowman, Lieutenant Neal Turkington, from Portadown, Co Armagh, and Corporal Arjun Purja Pun, all of 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles, died in an attack on a base in Helmand Province carried out by one of the Afghan men they had been advising.

The attack was carried out by a sergeant, Talib Hussein (23) from eastern Ghazni Province, who was a member of the Hazara, a Shiite Muslim ethnic minority normally opposed to the Taliban.

Senior officers have said they will look at their security measures and lessons may be learned from the deadly attack but the programme to train the Afghan National Army (ANA) must go on.

Britain's withdrawal from the war-ravaged country is dependent on security being handed over to the ANA.

Troops on the ground are mentoring Afghan soldiers and training them in vital skills such as detecting improvised explosive devices, first aid and patrolling dangerous ground, under the constant threat of the Taliban.

Lance Corporal Christopher Baird (29) has been patrolling alongside ANA soldiers for months. He witnessed the deaths of two while on patrol in Sangin and said each death was like losing one of their own.

L/Cpl Baird, from Blantyre in Lanarkshire, said: “We need to trust them because you're fighting for their lives and they are fighting for your life.

“We treat them like they are one of us.

“I think the boys will be a bit more aware after what happened. I don't think it will cause any grief between the teams.”

Lieutenant Colonel Charlie Herbert, commanding officer of 1 SCOTS, speaking from Camp Shorabak, an Afghan training camp in central Helmand, said: “That was the action of what we believe was a rogue individual and in no way reflects the wider Afghan Army.”

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