(Daily Express, by Kirsty Buchanan) Bureaucrats have banned an infantry regiment from fighting in Afghanistan amid fears its soldiers would not be insured against injury. Despite a desperate need for more boots on the ground, the Ministry of Defence says the Royal Gibraltar Regiment must stay at home.>
The move was last night branded “inexplicable” by Colonel Richard Kemp, who commanded British forces in Afghanistan in 2003 and praised the Gibraltarians’ previous work there.
The highly decorated regiment is made up of men and women born in Gibraltar.
Its soldiers have served in Iraq as well as Afghanistan but six months ago the MoD barred it from further deployments to Afghanistan.
It is understood the move was prompted by concerns that soldiers wounded during operations would not be covered by the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme because they are not British-born.
Colonel Kemp said: “Frankly I find this ruling inexplicable since they provided such valuable service in the past and not only in Afghanistan. When I served in Bosnia my second in command was a captain from the Royal Gibraltar Regiment. Excellent chap.
“In my book, Attack State Red, I give an account of how excellently they acquit themselves along with their partners from the Royal Anglian Regiment.”
The Tories are now calling for a re-think to allow the men and women of the Rock to do their bit in Afghanistan. Shadow defence minister Gerald Howarth said: “General Dannatt [the former Army head] made it absolutely clear that more boots are needed on the ground and he was not prescriptive about whose boots they should be.
“Here we have a loyal regiment of the Crown who want to do their bit, and bureaucracy shouldn’t stand in the way of bravery.”
The call comes as Britain’s new Army chief, General Sir David Richards, insisted failure was not an option in Afghanistan.
However, the Nato alliance against Taliban insurgents has been strained by the failure of many US and British allies to supply more soldiers.
The Gibraltar Regiment was conferred the honour of adding Royal to its title by the Queen in 1999, 60 years after its formation. It consists of a headquarter company and three rifle companies manned by both regular and Territorial Army soldiers.
Its soldiers have also seen service in Northern Ireland, Cyprus, Bosnia, Sierra Leone and Kosovo.
The regiment came to national prominence during its previous deployment in Afghanistan in 2004 when a senior officer won one of the highest medals for bravery.
Major Colin Risso, 35, received a Military Cross for “outstanding courage, decisiveness under fire and leadership” after helping to fight off rebels who attacked a US convoy.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said: “The primary role of the Royal Gibraltar regiment is to defend Gibraltar. However, the willingness of these soldiers to deploy to Afghanistan is commendable. We are aware of an issue with their compensation scheme and we are looking to resolve this.”