Dramatic film (replete with harsh language, understandable in the circumstances. Ed.) shot has revealed that British troops in Afghanistan are told to leave heroin-producing opium crops untouched – contradicting Government claims it is committed to wiping out the drug.
The footage shows soldiers fighting the Taliban in a field of opium poppies.
One admits he wants to throw a grenade into “their beloved” plants, but says he would get “the telling-off of a lifetime”.
The MoD said last night it was not the troops’ role to destroy crops but to provide security so farmers could be encouraged to grow alternatives.
Meanwhile a shocking 339 troops have suffered brain damage in the past four years, the Ministry of Defence has admitted.
A Freedom of Information request by The Mail on Sunday has revealed for the first time the full extent of treatment for neurological injuries.
Although there is no official breakdown, the vast majority of referrals to the neurological rehabilitation unit at Headley Court, Surrey, have been caused by battlefield incidents in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Sixty soldiers were referred for treatment in 2003. In 2004 this figure rose to 74. Eighty-two soldiers were treated in 2005 and 72 last year. The figure for this year is on course to exceed the previous totals. By the middle of this month, 51 soldiers had already been sent to the facility. Those referred have been treated for conditions ranging from concussion to permanent mental disability.
The disclosure comes as pressure mounts on Prime Minister Gordon Brown to withdraw British forces from Iraq and to provide reassurance over operations in Afghanistan.
Shadow Defence Secretary Liam Fox said: “The Ministry of Defence has not been honest in the way casualty figures are presented. Only if you reach a field hospital and are treated there are you considered a casualty and listed by the Ministry of Defence.
“If you are wounded on the battlefield, treated on the battlefield, then returned directly to your unit, you are not a casualty. It is as if you were never wounded at all, which may not please the victim.
“Despite repeated promises by this Government, including promises made in the House of Commons, UK casualty figures have not been brought into line. Instead, the public is given selective statistics and spin.”
The MoD keeps running totals for Very Seriously Injured (VSI) and Seriously Injured (SI) soldiers. Since current operations began in Iraq and Afghanistan, there have been 96 VSI cases and 158 SI cases.
A patient is listed as VSI if “his or her illness or injury is of such severity that life or reason is imminently endangered”.
SI is used when the patient’s condition “gives cause for immediate concern but is not life-threatening”.
The MoD also conceded that in the past year alone, operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have led to 26 British soldiers becoming amputees.
An MoD spokesman said: “All casualties suffered by UK forces are a source of profound regret. The MoD is committed to ensuring its Service personnel benefit from the latest advances in medical research.”