How many more wasted lives? Tom Wroe was 16 when he enlisted. Now he’s dead at 18, murdered with Gareth Thursby by one of the Afghan police Britain is trying to train
- Afghan recruit had begged for help, claiming he had hurt his foot on a patrol
- He shot the two soldiers with an assault rifle as they went to offer first aid
- Pte Wroe and Sgt Thursby were from 3rd Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment
- Fresh claims that the gunman was related to a Taliban leader
- Latest deaths bring total UK forces dead in Afghanistan to 430 since 2001
- Sgt Thursby’s stepfather: ‘Ridiculous that our troops are still out there’
He signed up to serve his country aged just 16 and was deployed to Afghanistan weeks after his 18th birthday.
But now Private Tom Wroe is dead – murdered by one of the Afghan policemen British forces have been sent to train.
The recruit had begged for help, claiming he had hurt his foot on a patrol – then slaughtered Private Wroe and Sergeant Gareth Thursby with an assault rifle when they went to offer first aid.
Tributes: Married father-of-two Sergeant Gareth Thursby, 29, and Private Thomas Wroe, 18, were shot dead in the south of Nahr-e Saraj district, Helmand province
Sergeant Thursby, 29 – who leaves a wife, Louise, and two children, Joshua, ten, and Ruby, four – and Private Wroe were due home within days.
Their deaths are the latest in a sickening spate of ‘green on blue’ attacks – where allied troops are killed by the Afghan soldiers or policemen that they are trying to train or are working alongside.
The deaths prompted a furious reaction from MPs and relatives yesterday – who demanded that troops were brought home from an ‘unwinnable war’.
Rogue security forces have carried out 37 attacks this year, killing 51 coalition troops. The toll includes nine British servicemen – a quarter of the 35 killed in 2012 – and part of an overall UK casualty toll of 430.
Special: Thomas Wroe was a much-loved young man who was tragically killed in Afghanistan
Heartbroken: Thomas’s parents Claire and Mick display photographs, cards and flowers in their home in rememberence of their much loved son
Family: Thomas Wroe with his mother Claire, father Mick and sister Demi
Last night it was claimed the gunman in the latest case was related to a Taliban leader – again highlighting gaping flaws in vetting Afghan recruits.
As tributes were paid to the latest victims:
- Defence Secretary Philip Hammond admitted checks on Afghans joining the police and army had been ‘inadequate’. He acknowledged Taliban had infiltrated the Afghan National Security Forces to carry out attacks;
- Security has been stepped up at Camp Bastion, where helicopter pilot Prince Harry is based, after Friday’s attack by gunmen which left two US Marines dead and five British troops injured.
Yesterday Sergeant Thursby’s stepfather Brain Whitaker, 58, said UK troops were fighting a ‘losing battle’.
Tough to take: Proud British soldier Gareth Thursby, up, who has had many glowing tributes including from his step father Brian Whitaker,down
Past memories: Wroe (right) is pictured aged 14 with his best friend and fellow army cadet, Tim Carter
Tragic loss: Sergeant Gareth Thursby’s children Joshua and Ruby
Tribute pictures: Wroe, who died at the age of 18, photographed (up) as a schoolboy and (down) as a baby
Mr Whitaker, who lives with Gareth’s mother, Caroline, 49, in Padiham, Lancashire, added: ‘We just feel numb at the moment but it is absolutely ridiculous that our troops are still out there.
‘Gareth’s death just shows that these people don’t want us there and as soon as we leave the Taliban will be back in power. This war is totally and utterly pointless.’
Sergeant Thursby is from Skipton, North Yorkshire, and his young comrade is from Holmfirth, West Yorkshire. Both belonged to 3rd Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment.
Building up the ANSF to a strength of 370,000 is the key plank of Nato’s strategy for withdrawing combat troops from the conflict.
Horror: Two British soldiers were gunned down by a man in an Afghan police uniform (file photo)
Guard: Earlier this week, two Marines were killed and several more wounded at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan
International soldiers are training and mentoring Afghan forces so they can assume responsibility for the country’s security by the end of 2014. To build bonds between the forces, they live, work and sleep together in small bases.
But the danger has increased as insurgents have infiltrated the Afghan ranks and the Taliban has encouraged them to kill their international mentors to undermine the mission.
Other fatality: Lance Corporal Duane Groom, 32, from 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, died on Friday after his vehicle hit a roadside bomb
In March six 3 Yorks soldiers died after a roadside bomb blew up their Warrior armoured vehicle – the Army’s worst single loss of life in the war.
Private Wroe’s family said he was ‘buzzing’ to deploy to Afghanistan. His comrades in 3 Yorks had arrived there in the spring but he had to remain in the UK until he turned 18.
His mother Claire, 39, a care home deputy manager, said: ‘He couldn’t wait to go. He wanted to go and join all his mates, he was so excited.’
His father, Mick, 48 – who served 22 years in the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment, which became 3 Yorks – said: ‘He was a proper little soldier. He just wanted to be in the Army. It’s all he ever wanted to do.’
In a statement to the Commons, Mr Hammond admitted the rapid expansion of the ANSF meant vetting ‘might not have been entirely adequate’.
All Afghan soldiers and policemen are undergoing a stringent re-screening programme when they return from leave, said Mr Hammond. But he acknowledged it was impossible to ‘eliminate the risk entirely’.
Former Labour minister Denis MacShane said: ‘Why are we still allowing our soldiers to be sacrificed to no evident purpose?’ He said UK forces were dying in ‘an unwinnable conflict for an unobtainable end, to no strategic benefit for our country’.
Colonel Tim Collins, a former commanding officer of the 1st Battalion the Royal Irish Regiment, said: ‘We have expanded very rapidly the Afghan National Security Forces and the net effect is that people who would not otherwise have been put in uniform, the undesirables, have been admitted.’
- The term green on blue refers to a colour-coding system used by the US military. Nato forces are blue and Afghans are green, hence the term for friendly-fire incidents as ‘blue on blue’. The enemy is usually denoted as red.