Veterans and families of soldiers killed in the Afghan conflict hit out yesterday at the 20 years of ‘senseless’ British sacrifice.
They feared the return of the Taliban meant troops had died in vain, as their achievements were effectively wiped out after the West’s withdrawal.
The resurgence of the hardline Islamists has left parents, widows and veterans questioning what was achieved by two decades of British boots on the ground, and the loss of 457 servicemen and women.
They also spoke of their fears for the millions of innocent Afghan civilians – strangers on the other side of the world who their loved ones had fought and died for.
I hope Afghans can resist the Taliban – lost fiance
Daniel John Clack killed in Afghanistan with fiance Amy Tinley. He was less than two weeks away from flying home when he sadly died
Lieutenant Dan Clack, 24, was less than two weeks away from flying home when he was killed by a bomb in Helmand.
The young officer with the 1st Battalion The Rifles, who was engaged to sweetheart Amy Tinley, was hit as he led a ten-man patrol in August 2011.
After marking the tenth anniversary of his death last week, his mother Sue, 67, of Woodford Green, Essex, said: ‘My only hope is that what the Afghan people have learned from British troops will make them stronger. They have had a good taste of freedom and I hope that will give them courage to stand up to the Taliban.
The young officer with the 1st Battalion The Rifles was hit as he led a ten-man patrol in August 2011
‘Afghan women have been able to enjoy proper education, to go to university and get good jobs. Because those women have gained so much, they have much more to lose – and I believe they won’t want to have that taken away.
‘I can’t be angry about what is happening. Anger is negative, and it detracts from everything Dan and his men achieved.’
This feels like a slap in the face – lost husband
Sergeant Peter Rayner, 34, was killed by an improvised explosive device in Helmand in 2010
Sergeant Peter Rayner, 34, was killed by an improvised explosive device in Helmand in 2010.
His widow Wendy said he had told Afghan children that the British Army was trying to make their country safer.
She said: ‘Now we’re pulling out and the job hasn’t been done. I’m absolutely disgusted and so are many other families who lost loved ones in Afghanistan.
‘It just feels like a complete slap in the face after all the sacrifices people like my husband have made. It’s an insult to say they died for nothing – they were killed doing a job they believed in.
‘Everything they did has been undone in the space of a few days. All those children will be living in darkness again. Why didn’t we learn lessons from what happened in Iraq?’ Mrs Rayner, from Bradford, has written to Boris Johnson to ask him to justify his actions.
But she said she did not believe Britain should now send troops back to Afghanistan, saying: ‘I wouldn’t want any family to go through what I have.’
His widow Wendy said he had told Afghan children that the British Army was trying to make their country safer
It was such a waste of life – lost daughter
Channing Day, 25, was the third female soldier to die in combat in Afghanistan and was buried with full military honours in her home town of Comber, Northern Ireland
Army medic Channing Day, 25, was shot dead on her way to teach first aid to Afghan police.
The corporal and her comrade David O’Connor, 27, were killed by a rogue policeman just a month after she arrived for her second tour of duty in 2012.
She was the third female soldier to die in combat in Afghanistan and was buried with full military honours in her home town of Comber, Northern Ireland.
Her mother, Rosemary Day, 59, said: ‘It’s been hard to watch what’s happened in Afghanistan in the last few days, knowing Channing was killed as she tried to help people there. I very much feel that the Army have done their bit.
The corporal and her comrade David O’Connor, 27, were killed by a rogue policeman just a month after she arrived for her second tour of duty in 2012
‘It was such a waste of life for my daughter, when you see the way things have happened. I don’t feel angry – I had to leave anger and bitterness behind nine years ago. But I’m sad and disappointed.
‘To me it seems the Afghan people didn’t help themselves. The British forces tried to help them, but we couldn’t stay there forever. It had to end somewhere, and I think we were right to bring them back.’
Veterans will think it was all pointless – lost son
Darren’s mother Julie Hall, 56, said: ‘After the Twin Towers attacks, my son believed that by being in Afghanistan he was helping make the world a safer place’
Darren Deady was just 22 when he was shot in Helmand during his second tour of duty in Afghanistan.
His comrades from the 2nd Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment fought to keep him alive and he was flown back to Britain for treatment.
Tragically, the young Kingsman died from his wounds in hospital almost three weeks later with his devoted family at his bedside.
Darren Deady was just 22 when he was shot in Helmand during his second tour of duty in Afghanistan
Darren’s mother Julie Hall, 56, said: ‘After the Twin Towers attacks, my son believed that by being in Afghanistan he was helping make the world a safer place.
‘Now I feel everything our military did out there, everything we sacrificed, was for nothing.
‘Boris Johnson is undoing everything our troops fought for, everything the survivors are still fighting against. My son felt he was making a difference for the children in Afghanistan.
‘He used to tell me they had nothing. I would send sweets and pens for him to hand out. What are their lives going to be like now? The Taliban will slaughter them.
‘It feels like my son’s death was for nothing, and that’s a horrible feeling.’
Mrs Hall, from Westhoughton, near Bolton, has since set up a foundation in her son’s name to support struggling veterans.
She said: ‘I’ve seen lads who are still suffering nightmares from their time in Afghanistan. This will affect them drastically – they will feel everything they lost their mates for was pointless.’
Did I lose my legs for nothing? – disabled
Prince Harry speaks to Jack Cummings during the Not Forgotten Association Annual Garden Party at Buckingham Palace
Jack Cummings in Helmand Province. He said ‘I truly felt I was making a difference in Afghanistan – every bomb I was finding was saving a life’
Bomb disposal expert Jack Cummings, 32, lost both legs and spent a month in a coma after an IED blast blew him 10ft into the air.
On Saturday – as the Taliban closed in on Kabul – he marked exactly 11 years since the day in Helmand which changed his life. He tweeted: ‘Was it worth it, probably not. Did I lose my legs for nothing, looks like it. Did my mates die in vain. Yep. Many emotions going through my head, anger, betrayal, sadness to name a few.’
He later told Sky News: ‘I truly felt I was making a difference in Afghanistan – every bomb I was finding was saving a life. But just seeing the Taliban… It’s horrendous.’