It is time the rest of the EU played their part in Afghanistan Gordon Brown opened yesterday's Prime Minister's Questions with a roll-call of the five servicemen killed in Afghanistan since the Commons last sat. Telegraph View Last Updated: 6:41PM GMT 14 Jan 2009 Comments 0 | Comment on this article The recitation of the names of the fallen has now become a doleful preliminary to almost every PMQs. A total of 139 British service personnel have died in action since the 2001 invasion, most of them since the 2006 deployment when the then defence secretary, John Reid, voiced the hope that their tour of duty would be completed "without a shot being fired". It is hard to imagine such a fatuous remark being uttered by the current defence secretary, John Hutton. Within a month of his appointment last October, he delivered the most cogent and persuasive case for our presence in Afghanistan that has ever come from a minister in this government. Reminding us that the country was the base from which al-Qaeda - given sanctuary by the Taliban - launched its terrorist campaign against western interests, he warned it would do so again if the Taliban were not routed: "Our commitment to Afghanistan is first and foremost about the UK's national security". Today, Mr Hutton voices his frustration at the way we are being let down by our EU allies in this vital struggle. In words that are refreshingly undiplomatic, he will accuse countries such as France, Germany and Italy of "freeloading" on the sacrifice and commitment of the US, the UK and a handful of other NATO members, notably the Canadians, the Danes and the Dutch. He is right to do so. The pusillanimity of some of the bigger EU powers in Afghanistan has been shameful. For years they have resented US dominance of the alliance while at the same time expecting the Americans do the heavy-lifting and take the casualties. A NATO summit in Budapest last spring saw the US calling for greater commitment yet nothing has changed. The French remain under-resourced, the Germans avoid combat zones (and, according to a recent report, are growing fat and unfit on generous rations of wine and beer) while the Italians appear suspiciously adept at avoiding conflict with the Taliban. Mr Hutton's frustration with this shabby performance is understandable though we fear his declaration that "anyone who wants to benefit from collective security must be prepared to share the ultimate price" will continue to fall on deaf ears. President-Elect Obama's troop surge will doubtless be supported by Britain, not least because our special relationship is in need of some repair after difficulties in Iraq. But don't expect our leading EU partners to make real sacrifices. Doesn't it make their grandiloquent talk about an EU army sound pathetic?