As my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary stated in his speech to NATO on 27 July 2009, burden sharing is a founding principal of the NATO alliance, and needs to be honoured in practice as well as theory. We will continue to press other NATO allies to share more of the burden in Afghanistan, focusing on what they can realistically deliver, including military and non-military assets.
Casualty statistics for UK military and civilian personnel in Afghanistan are routinely updated each fortnight on the MoD website, which can be found at the following link:
The majority of Armed Forces personnel who are injured on operations subsequently recover and return to full fitness. In some cases that can take many weeks or months and because of our successes in treatment and rehabilitation, even in serious cases, it is not always possible to determine in advance whether their injuries will make them permanently unable to deploy.
Even if designated “not fully fit”, many remain fit enough to work in some military capacity and therefore continue to make a contribution to operational effectiveness, often within theatres of operation.
Wounded service personnel whose injuries affect their ability to perform their duties will generally be referred to a medical board for a medical examination and a review of their medical grading. In clear-cut cases where the individual's fitness falls below the service employment and retention standards, the board will recommend a medical discharge without further delay. In many cases, however, the patient will first be downgraded, to allow for treatment, recovery and rehabilitation. For personnel who do not make a full recovery, the board may recommend the patient is retained as permanently downgraded with limited duties or they may recommend a medical discharge.
Although medical boards recommend medical discharges, they do not attribute the principal disability leading to the board either to service or to previous deployment. A medical board could take place months or even years after an event or injury and it is not clinically possible in some cases to link an earlier injury to a later problem which might lead to discharge.
The Defence Analytical Services Agency (DASA) has compiled information on the numbers of service personnel previously identified as deployed in Afghanistan on Operation Herrick who were medically discharged during 2008 with musculoskeletal disorders and injuries given as the principal cause leading to discharge. Figures have been compiled using the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems version 10 (ICD 10). The numbers of such personnel are follows:
Naval Service (Royal Navy and Marines): 6;
Numbers less than five have been suppressed (-) in line with Office for National Statistics guidelines.
As stated on 7 July 2009 (Official Report, column WA 121), there is evidence that elements of the Iranian regime provide arms and funding to the Taliban and other illegal armed groups in Afghanistan. For reasons of operational security it would be inappropriate for me to comment on specific evidence.