Sevenoaks' KCC Councillor Richard Streatfeild speaks to the Liberal Democrat Autumn Conference to support the motion on responding to the crisis in Afghanistan.
11 years ago I commanded A company from 4 Rifles in Afghanistan. Over 7 months I wrote to 10 families of Riflemen, and Sappers telling them, after offering my sincerest condolences that their sons had not died in vain. They had died at the hands of the Taliban in our effort to give Afghans freedoms we hoped might endure, and so keep us and them safe. The freedom to live under the rule of law, freedom from oppression and freedom to access education.
The tragedy that has unfolded since 2014, but especially in the last two months in Afghanistan, has been tough. To the horror of those who served there, many feel we have abandoned and betrayed not only the Afghan people, but also those who we fought with, and worked with. Both British and Afghans who sacrificed their lives for a democratic Afghanistan. The lesson of history other than, we don't learn the lessons of history, is that we have been to Afghanistan four times and we have now allowed the circumstances which provoked our twenty year intervention to return. We might well have to go back. Some hope that the oppression will be temporary, that Afghanistan has changed, vain hope. What we have done is the political equivalent of the water board.
We took a people out of bondage, they breathed lungful's of the oxygen of freedom but we have now allowed the Taliban bindings to be refastened and the flow of oppression, misogyny and arbitrary justice to be turned back on. Shame on the United States administrations both this one and the last, and shame on our government for not acting sooner to get the people who worked for us and with us and who now face mortal peril, out. I speak in favour of the whole motion which sets out a detailed and helpful policy positions in relation to Afghanistan, but the lines that I particularly support are on setting up a public inquiry.
I will put a link to my parliamentary petition when I go back to the auditorium. We owe a judge led public enquiry to those 10 soldiers, and the 447 others who died there, we owe that enquiry to the three from my company and the many more veterans who have died subsequently where PTS or PTSD was directly or indirectly involved. We owe that enquiry to future generations of servicemen and women to set out where we went wrong and thereby how we could do it better next time, because there will be a next time and we need to do it better. We owe that enquiry most of all to the still grieving families who have all been to a coroners court to hear the precise circumstance of their sons death, but have never been told how their son or daughter came to be in that circumstance beyond the orders given that day. Only a public enquiry gives the ability for us to tell those families that their son or daughter's sacrifice has not been totally in vain.
Conference please support the motion.