Bob Ainsworth, the defence secretary, has been accused of a cover-up over the death of the first British soldier to be killed in action in the Nato operation in the Helmand province of Afghanistan, by smearing his commanding officer.
Tony Philippson, whose son James died in June 2006 after being sent into battle without basic equipment, including night-vision goggles, accused Ainsworth of trying to deflect blame from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) by criticising Major Jonny Bristow, his son’s commander.
A panel of three senior army officers is expected to exonerate Bristow, clearing him of making tactical errors. Their report is due to be published later this year.
At the inquest into Philippson’s death, Andrew Walker, then the assistant coroner for Oxfordshire, said: “They [the soldiers] were defeated not by the terrorists but by the lack of basic equipment.
The MoD admitted that an “administrative error” had led to a 25-day delay in getting equipment to the front line.
However, in an interview just hours after the inquest, Ainsworth, then the armed forces minister, attempted to shift the blame onto Bristow. He said while there had been a shortage of equipment, a military board of inquiry had also found there were a “lack of standard procedures and tactical errors too”.