BBC Newsnight says MoD refused to provide figures for Sangin attacks

British forces have handed over responsibility for security in Sangin, Afghanistan to their U.S. counterparts. More than a hundred British soldiers lost their lives in the district.

As part of their research for last night’s coverage of this story, BBC Newsnight wanted the figures for "significant attacks on coalition forces in Sangin". They were trying to work out whether violence in the area was dropping in order to assess what British forces had achieved.

Mark Urban, Newsnight’s diplomatic and defence editor, explains why the Ministry of Defence refused to give them the figures and the implications for war reporting:

"The MoD, however, when asked today by Newsnight for monthly figures for significant attacks on coalition forces in Sangin declined to provide them. Why, you might say, if these figures do indeed reveal any sort of positive trend? The answer seems to be that it is MoD policy not to release such figures because doing so would set a precedent. Naturally, there are many places where they would not show a positive trend.

"Such a policy underlines the difficulty of reporting the war, in trying to make an assessment of what is really going on in many parts of Afghanistan. So perhaps it’s not surprising that so many of those working on this conflict – from journalists to aid workers or academics – therefore welcomed the Wikileaks publication of secret files on the conduct of the war."