Afghanistan War 11th Anniversary: Controversy Still Rages Over Need For Intervention


As the 11th anniversary of the war in Afghanistan approaches, it remains a controversial subject.

The number of members of UK forces to have died since operations began in October 2001 now stands at 433, and with the US toll hitting 2,000 this week, the question mark remains about operations there.

Concerns have been heightened after a spate of so-called "green on blue" attacks, in which Afghan soldiers and police turned their guns on their international mentors.

Last month, Nato announced it was cutting back on joint patrols in response to the series of killings, as well as the outrage sparked by an internet video mocking Islam.

It has been almost 11 years since the beginning of the war in Afghanistan

That led to calls from MPs to accelerate the withdrawal of troops, with Labour's former Europe minister Denis MacShane arguing that they should all be brought home by Christmas.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond acknowledged the attacks were "sapping public opinion (and) public morale" in coalition countries but said it would leave UK operations "substantially unchanged".

About 500 British troops are due to return home by the end of this year, leaving a further 9,000 to return by the end of 2014.

But for some - 11 years since the US and UK launched the campaign known as Operation Enduring Freedom in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks - that is not soon enough.

They will also demand that the British government end its involvement and bring all troops home by Christmas.

The meeting will be led by Joan Humphries, whose grandson was killed in Afghanistan three years ago.

Private Kevin Elliott, 24, of The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, died alongside Sergeant Stuart Millar, 40, in an explosion while on foot patrol in southern Helmand on 31 August, 2009.

433 British service personel have died in the country, with many more returning injured

In a statement, the family of the soldier, from Dundee - who became the 210th member of British military personnel to die in Afghanistan - said he gave his life for his friends.

Mrs Humphries, 68, also from Dundee, said he had left the army for "all of 10 minutes", but went back because he "couldn't let his friends face it on their own".

Mrs Humphries is calling for the Government to bring all British troops home before Christmas.

"If not, at least 100 more of our troops will die before they are pulled out in 2014," she said.

"Kevin was the 210th to get killed and that was after eight years of war. We've had even more die at a faster rate, it's just getting worse.

"I don't think our troops should have been there in the first place. I can't imagine why they were. And the majority of people I speak to say the same thing."

"The Government said it would make life better for the Afghans but it just hasn't happened. Small areas of Kabul might be better but the rest of the country isn't, in some places it's worse."

WO2 Simon Bell kisses goodbye to his daughters Catherine (left) and Alice as he leaves with 4 Regiment Royal Artillery for deployment in Afghanistan

Mrs Humphries will be joined tomorrow by Paul Flynn MP, who was recently suspended from the Commons for accusing the government of lying about Afghanistan, as well as musician Brian Eno, Mitra Quayoom from Afghans for Peace, actor Celia Mitchell, journalist Victoria Britain, and Jeremy Corbyn MP.

Prime Minister David Cameron has repeatedly said he is keen to avoid a "cliff-edge" on troop withdrawal in 2014, and in September Mr Hammond said there was "a bit of rethinking" about soldier numbers after military commanders reported they were "surprised by the extent to which they have been able to draw back and leave the Afghans to take the lion's share of the combat role".

Prince Harry is currently serving his second tour of duty as an Apache attack helicopter gunner in Afghanistan - during a Taliban attack on Camp Bastion he had to be moved to a guarded location.

Two US Marines were killed and six planes destroyed during the attack on the desert base in Helmand province, where the bulk of the UK's 9,500-strong force are deployed.

Last week soldiers who served in Afghanistan were acknowledged in the latest operational honours list, which included 106 military personnel for actions during the period from September 2011 to March 2012.

Despite criticisms, hopes from some quarters remain high that the efforts will help secure a lasting peace in Afghanistan.

David Cameron recently helped broker agreement by Afghanistan and Pakistan to work together on a framework for co-operation following the withdrawal of international troops at the end of 2014, meeting Afghan president Hamid Karzai and his Pakistan counterpart Asif Ali Zardari on the fringes of the United Nations General Assembly in New York last month.

But despite hopes, for some the best solution for Britain is to pull troops out of Afghanistan before there are any more deaths.

In Mrs Humphries' view, the hardest thing to accept may be if that is the case: "We've all seen the history over the years. Nobody is going to fix it, and all those deaths will be for absolutely nothing."

Before You Go