Contains distressing content.
11 Aug 2021

Afghanistan war: British veterans express ‘sadness and anger’ at Taliban advances

Chief Correspondent

Warning: Some viewers may find this report distressing.

British veterans of the war in Afghanistan have spoken out about their traumatic experiences, with some feeling “sadness” and “anger” as Taliban forces make advances across the country.

Michelle Partington, the first ever woman to serve as a frontline RAF paramedic, was injured during one of her tours and suffered post-traumatic stress disorder.

She contemplated taking her own life until the veterans charity Help for Heroes stepped and helped her.

“My war is still ongoing,” she said. “I can’t think about the situation [in Afghanistan now] because it’ll take me back to my illness.”

‘Sadness and anger’

UK combat troops largely left Afghanistan in October 2014, but hundreds remained to train and assist Afghan forces.

But since coalition forces fully withdrew earlier this year, the Taliban has swept across the north of the country forcing thousands of civilians to flee their homes.

The Taliban have suffered substantial casualties in the fighting.

The armed forces and veterans charity Help for Heroes says they have seen an upsurge of grief, anger and emotion among veterans at what is currently happening in Afghanistan.

Phil Hall, a former A&E nurse who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, said: “For me it’s sadness and I think a lot of people feel sad about it.

“I’m sure there will be some anger, I’m sure there will be some raised anxiety.”

Mr Hall says when he sees TV shots “of people holding guns” in Afghanistan, he can “smell it” and “see it” as if he were there, and he thinks of the “young children” he attended to at the UK’s main Afghan base Camp Bastion.

He added that he’s worried about the safety of the people he met in Afghanistan.

‘We served a purpose’

Dean Middleton, from County Durham, was a physical training instructor in the Parachute Regiment.

He has no memory of the time a Taliban bomb hit his armoured vehicle.

His rehabilitation took three years as part of his skull had to be replaced with a titanium plate.

He said: “I had a six-month period where I had half a skull.”

Mr Middleton believes Britain’s involvement in Afghanistan was worthwhile.

He said: “I think that we’ve prevented so much.

“For the people who weren’t as fortunate as I am, who made the ultimate sacrifice, their family and friends need to have that knowledge that they have served a purpose and made a difference.”

Producer: Nanette van der Laan.