Tom Tugendhat

Afghanistan: The error of withdrawal

(Photo by Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament)

Like many veterans, this last week has been one that has seen me struggle through anger, grief and rage. The feeling of abandonment, not just of a country but of the sacrifice that my friends made. I’ve been to funerals from Poole to Dunblane; I’ve watched good men go into the earth, taking with them a part of me and a part of us all. And this week has torn open those wounds, left them raw, left us all hurting. I know it’s not just soldiers. I know aid workers and diplomats who feel the same way. I know journalists who’ve been the witnesses to our country in its heroic effort to save people from the most horrific fates.

This isn’t just about us. The mission in Afghanistan wasn’t a British mission, it was a Nato mission. It was a recognition that globalisation has changed us all. The phone calls that I am still receiving, the text messages that I have been answering, putting people in touch with our people in Afghanistan, reminds us that we are connected. Afghanistan is not a far away country about which we know little. It is part of the main. That connection links us also to our European partners, to our neighbours and our international friends.

And so it is with great sadness that I now criticise one of them. Because I was never prouder than when I was decorated by the 82nd Airborne after the capture of Musa Qala. It was a huge privilege to be recognised by such an extraordinary unit in combat. To see their commander-in-chief call into question the courage of men I fought with — to claim that they ran. It is shameful.

Let’s stop talking about ‘forever wars’, let’s recognise that forever peace is not bought cheaply — it is hard

Those who have never fought for the colours they fly should be careful about criticising those who have.

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