After 13 years, 3 weeks, 19 billion pounds, 458 lives lost, and 1000’s changed forever, the UK’s combat operations in Afghanistan have ended.
Yesterday October 27th 2014 Wing Cdr Matt Radnall of the RAF climbed aboard a chinook helicopter, in his arms the folded union flag that flew over Camp Bastion, he was the last British soldier to leave. Almost all the British personnel killed in Afghanistan happened after Bastion was set up in the troubled Helmand province, it is here the bulk of our fighting occurred. It is here that the Taliban still control the areas outside the green zone, it is here that Opium production has skyrocketed and the roads are littered with IED’s ready to indiscriminately kill.
But it is also here that schools are open, the security in the larger towns and villages has improved, girls can read and learn and the local economy is rising.
There’s no clear cut answer to whether Afghanistan was worth it, certainly things are improving but many of the old problems remain, warlords are asserting control and the central government is weak. The Taliban roam the countryside and the tribal areas along the Pakistan Border. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and Afghanistan certainly won’t be build in a generation. We have seen the first peaceful transition of power to a leader who certainly has the ability to turn the country around and finish the job. It’s too soon to say whether it was worth it in the end. Some will say “no” whatever the outcome, others will say “yes”, and others, “wait and see.”
But it should never be forgotten that there’s 458 empty chairs at tables today. And with some luck, there won’t be any more.
By: Gregg Smith