Yesterday marked the end of combat operations in Afghanistan for the British armed forces. Over 13 years of conflict have ensued since the US invoked Article 5 of the Washington Treaty in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Afghanistan had become a haven for terrorists to do as they pleased under the shelter of the despotic Taliban regime.
During the course of the war, 453 brave British soldiers lost their lives. They should not be forgotten, for they sacrificed everything for the dream of peace and security, both for us in the UK and the West, and also for the innocent people of Afghanistan, who want nothing more than to live free and prosper as all people deserve.
Whilst this cessation of combat operations may be somewhat premature, we leave Afghanistan’s fate now up to Afghans who, with our support, can build a country in which its children are born healthy and secure, enjoy the benefits of good education and live free from tyranny in lives they choose for themselves.
Afghanistan now is a far different place from the one which was invaded in 2001. Since the beginning of the war:
- Democratic elections have taken place twice with a turnout rate higher than in some European countries
- Child mortality has more than halved
- Maternal mortality is a quarter of its rate under the Taliban
- GDP has increased almost six-fold
- The number of doctors per 1,000 people has nearly doubled
- 10 times as many children are enrolled in primary education
- The number of Afghans with access to a telephone has increased by more than 18 times
- The media industry, outlawed altogether under the Taliban, is now on par with Afghanistan’s neighbour
These figures stand as a testament to the tenacity, resilience and entrepreneurialism of the Afghan people and are proud achievements that could only have been brought about by our intervention and the brave sacrifice of our servicemen and women.