Service deaths in Afghanistan: a gloomy landmark reached

With the deaths of Corporal John Moore and Private Sean McDonald of the Royal Scots Borderers, 1st Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland, the toll of UK military deaths in Afghanistan equalled that in the Falklands (255).

Another landmark lies ahead. The next UK military fatality in Afghanistan ( no 257) will be remarkable as the 250th since 1 May 2006. Journalists please note – not since October 2001: there were only seven UK military deaths in Afghanistan before 1 May 2006. So the next fatality will mean that 250 fatalities have occurred in under 200 weeks.
The 200th week since 1 May 2006 concludes on Sunday 21st February 2010. Thereafter, Clive Fairweather (former commanding officer of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers) and I will prepare our tenth 20-week report on military fatalities in Afghanistan by nationality and cause (The Period 9 report is here.
In the meantime, there is welcome news today that serious anomalies in compensation for injuries sustained and to mental health casualties in military operations have been sorted out.
Also, it is gratifying to see some statistics in The Daily Telegraph’s account of how the rising injury toll is putting pressure on excellent military hospitals. Reporter Aislinn Laing, citing the National Audit Office, introduces the metric of “doctors at Camp Bastion per 1,000 military personnel” - down from 10 in 2006 to four in 2009. See Straight Statistics, 15 December 2009, for our use of the equivalent metric “helicopters per 1,000 military personnel” to make international comparisons.
Since the beginning of 2009 (see Period 9 report), UK military fatalities in Afghanistan have averaged two per week. However, as Patrick Mercer and I continue to point out, verdicts in military inquests have slowed from two to one per week. Why?
Because extra resources were made available for one year only to clear a backlog. Since then, the increased fatality rate (two deaths per week) and decreased verdict rate (one per week) inevitably mean than another backlog builds which adds unnecessary to the distress of bereaved military families to whom, in honour, we own a duty of care. As the department of state with responsibility for inquests, will the Ministry of Justice act?