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Helmand Province

Volume 598: debated on Monday 13 July 2015

No decisions have been made about an inquiry, but we have been learning tactical lessons throughout our operations in Afghanistan. We will also want to look at the broader lessons that can be learnt from the campaign. However, combat operations have only recently ceased, and our focus remains on supporting the Afghan Government through NATO’s current mission.

Five of our brave British soldiers lost their lives in the first five years of the Afghan war. An additional 448 lost their lives following the decision to invade Helmand with impossibilist aims and a hope that not a shot would be fired. Do not the loved ones of the fallen, and the House, deserve to know the truth of what was a major blunder, certainly before we contemplate sending more troops into a four-way civil war in Syria?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising that important issue. The matters to which he has referred, particularly the incidents in 2006, have been the subject of a Defence Committee report, and I suggest that he read the report and the Government’s response to it. Along with the Under-Secretary of State for Defence, my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr Brazier), who is the reserves Minister, I served on the Committee at the time.

Having recently returned from Afghanistan, and having spoken to some of the next of kin at the recent Para memorial, I would say that we have a legacy to be proud of. Afghanistan has never had what it has now. There are millions of people in education, including girls; there is a strong army and a strong police force; and economic regeneration is taking place. Although it has cost us much in blood and treasure, we have a legacy to be proud of in Afghanistan, and the United Kingdom is safer.