Families of Afghan veterans: withdrawal is a "callous betrayal by western governments"

16 August 2021, 17:02 | Updated: 16 August 2021, 17:04

As US troops seek to maintain control of Kabul airport, British families question whether their loved ones' sacrifices were worthwhile
As US troops seek to maintain control of Kabul airport, British families question whether their loved ones' sacrifices were worthwhile. Picture: Getty Images

By Elizabeth Haigh

Families and friends of soldiers who were tragically killed while serving in Afghanistan have criticised the government’s handling of the situation as the Taliban take Kabul.

Graham Knight, father of 25-year-old RAF Sergeant Ben Knight, said: "We're not surprised that the Taliban have taken over because as soon as the Americans and the British said they were going to leave, we knew this was going to happen.

"The Taliban made their intent very clear that, as soon as we went out, they would move in."

Mr Knight added that he had sympathy with Afghans, and understood the desperation shown in videos of citizens clinging to planes attempting to take off from Kabul's airport.

"I feel very sorry for them, they're obviously fighting for their lives. Anybody who feels like that is in a desperate situation. It's like Saigon all over again."

He also questioned the decision-making behind the UK government’s evacuation strategy.

"I think it was all started too late again. It (the evacuation process) should have started about a week ago."

"My main worry is some hothead American, or British hothead, will decide that the Taliban isn’t behaving how they want, shoot at them and that will be it."

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Ian Sadler, who lost his 21-year old son Jack Sadler in 2007, attacked the UK’s confidence that Afghanistan would not fall for some time.

"Why did they think the Afghan national army would be able to keep the Taliban back based on just numbers alone? Why did our Government and allies have so much confidence in them?"

He added: "I don't think any of the British Governments - Labour, coalition or Conservative - have handled the situation in Afghanistan particularly well... The level of support given to our soldiers in Afghanistan was trivial.

"It wasn’t until we were out there for about 10 years that the urgent operational requirements came in. Why weren’t our soldiers equipped with mine-protected vehicles? We would have lost a lot less."

Paul Sweeney, a member of the Scottish Parliament, tweeted: "I'm thinking of one of my best friends who gave his life in Helmand Province on 30 April 2013 aged 25, and all that was lost. I'm thinking of his family. How to make sense of his death and the lives of so many others affected by 20 years of bloody struggle in Afghanistan."

"It is hard to avoid a sense of callous betrayal by western governments, a misunderstanding of how power operates in Afghanistan, and the ultimate futility of supporting a corrupt government in Kabul that carries little legitimacy among Afghans, who refuse to fight and die for it."