Some British military veterans from the Afghan war have taken their own lives because they are so devastated by the chaotic withdrawal of US-led forces from the country and the victory of the Taliban, Britain’s armed forces minister said on Monday.
The humiliation of the lightning Taliban takeover in Afghanistan after a 20-year war that cost hundreds of thousands of lives and at least a trillion dollars has dismayed veterans of the war.
Britain lost 457 armed forces personnel in Afghanistan, or 13% of the international military coalition’s 3,500 fatalities since 2001.
“I know, unfortunately, there have been soldiers who served in Afghanistan, indeed a soldier who served on my last tour in Afghanistan, who have taken their own lives in the last week or so because of the feelings they have had over what’s happening in Afghanistan,” said James Heappey, a junior defence minister.
“That is hugely concerning and upsetting,” Heappey, who served in the British army in Afghanistan, Northern Ireland and Iraq, told Sky News. “That makes me sick to the bottom of my stomach.”
Heappey, who reached the rank of major before entering politics, said he was hearing the Taliban was now in control of the whole of Afghanistan but that the situation in Panjshir did not change the big picture.
Britain fears the Taliban’s return and the vacuum left by the West’s chaotic withdrawal will allow militants from Al-Qaeda to gain a foothold in Afghanistan, just 20 years after the Sept 11, 2001 attacks on the US.