13 Mar 2015

UK remembers fallen soldiers from Afghan conflict

Services are held to commemorate British soldiers who fought and died during the Afghan campaign. But in Afghanistan, there are fears the Taliban could link up with IS and retake the country.

The 150,000 British forces who went to Afghanistan were honoured today with all the occasion the royals, government, military and church could muster.

They gathered to thank those who served, and their families. But there are now fears that the caliphate declared by militants from the Islamic State group could extend to Afghanistan and threaten whatever was achieved.

At St Paul’s cathedral the Queen, joined by David Cameron, senior members of the royal family and veterans, led the nation in honouring all those who fought to free Afghanistan from the Taliban.

The families of some of those killed took part in the commemorations, and veterans of the 13-year campaign marched past the cathedral in a parade after the service.

The commemoration came after Tony Blair admitted that he had not foreseen just how long the struggle in Afghanistan would last when he first deployed troops in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

In an interview with Forces TV, the former prime minister said that even now it was not properly understood just how much more there was to be done.

“I think we have not yet understood the depth of this problem, the scale of it, and the need for a comprehensive strategy to deal with it,” he said.

“It is not just Islamic State in Iraq and Syria… It is happening day in and day out – there are thousands of people losing their lives every few weeks.”

He said that he believed his decision to deploy British troops in Afghanistan had been justified, although he acknowledged that families who had lost loved ones may feel differently.

“I always felt that it was right and justified that we were there in Afghanistan, that we were fighting both to remove the Taliban and then to try and stabilise the country. But there is nothing that’s really possible to say that could provide true consolation for family of someone who has lost their life,” he said.

Almost 150,000 UK personnel served in the Afghanistan conflict, and 453 British men and women died in the fight against the Taliban insurgency.