UK

Father questions British military role in Afghanistan

Marine Sam Alexander
Image caption Marine Sam Alexander was awarded the Military Cross for saving the life of a wounded colleague

The father of a soldier killed in Afghanistan has questioned the British military presence in the country.

Marine Sam Alexander, 28, of 42 Commando, died on Friday after an explosion in Helmand province, along with Lt Ollie Augustin, 23.

Writing in the Independent, Stuart Alexander, the newspaper's sailing correspondent, asked "are we winning the war in Afghanistan?"

And he said Nato was often not wanted by the Afghan public.

"What we see as liberation is too often seen by them as occupation," he wrote in a front page article.

Gallantry medal

He said: "What does the [British] public really know? Are we winning the fight for democracy in Afghanistan, or is that country just a loose federation of fiefdoms, often still run by warlords?

"Who or what are the Taliban? From what I have been told, this was not a ragbag peasant army.

"The most likely opponent, often very highly trained, could be Iranian, Chechen or Pakistani, not Afghans.

"So what does that do for the argument that, by waging war in Afghanistan, we are protecting Britain from a 9/11 or a Mumbai terrorist attack? Where does 7/7 fit into that? How much is the enemy already within?"

But he added: "Sam's life has not been wasted, because he was so damned good at what he did.

"The testimony from that most valuable of analysts, his own peer group, was alpha plus for him, humbling for me. My respect for him far outweighed any pride."

Marine Alexander, of Hammersmith, west London, leaves behind his wife Claire and young son Leo, who is not yet a year old.

Mr Alexander said his son had been hoping for brief leave to be at Leo's first birthday on 21 July, "to see him take his first steps".

Writing of his pain on hearing the news of his son's death, he said "the call, when it comes, is so stunning that everything goes numb and you shake."

But the news, he says, did not come as a shock - it was "the devastating realisation" of all the worries and fears his family he had felt about the dangers facing his son.

Peer opinion

Earlier, in tributes released by the Ministry of Defence, Marine Alexander's wife Claire has said: "Sam was so special. He was the gentlest of men but tough when he needed to be. He risked his safety for his friends but never batted an eyelid.

"It was his job and a job he did well. Sam was a loving husband and a wonderful father. He was our rock and my best friend. He has been taken from me all too soon. "

Kent-born Lt Augustin, is survived by his father Sean, his mother, Jane, and his sister, Sarah.

In a joint statement released by the MoD, his parents said: "Ollie was a much loved and cherished son. He was a beautiful boy who we were very proud of.

"He had many friends that he loved and who loved him in return. His warmth and humour lit a room and infected all around him.

"He dealt with people in a thoughtful and compassionate way. His independence and sense of adventure meant that he embraced life and his chosen path. Ollie we will all love and miss you forever."

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