UK armed forces minister says Afghanistan ‘all worth it’

James Heappey served in the country twice and said the UK could be proud of its work in the country.

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The UK armed forces minister has admitted he asked himself “was it all worth it” following the Taliban’s seizure of Afghanistan.

But James Heappey, who served the British Army in Afghanistan, told STV News the UK could ultimately be proud of its work in the country over the last 20 years.

“I myself served in Afghanistan twice. Like many… I am asking myself was it all worth it and I believe it was,” he said.

“The genie is now out of the bottle, the Afghan society has a different set of expectations to what they had when we first arrived in 2001.

“I know that a very, very large number of Afghans will be very scared about what their future holds.

“But I think that we as a country can hold our head up high that for the last 20 years we have done a good job and potentially given Afghanistan a very different path forward, although I accept that is far from guaranteed.”

Since the fall of the capital, Kabul, to the Taliban on Sunday there have been mounting fears for those who worked against the militants.

On Tuesday night, the UK Government announced that up to 5000 Afghans can find refuge in the UK this year, with up to 20,000 in the longer term.

Nicola Sturgeon called the commitment “woefully inadequate”.

The First Minister said: “I don’t think the UK Government is doing enough or stepping up and meeting its responsibilities.

“What’s unfolded in Afghanistan over the past days and weeks is horrifying and it has been contributed to because of the abrupt, unmanaged withdrawal of troops.”

Heappey said the resettlement plan was one of the largest on the planet and that he would debate over numbers, adding the scheme was “a very generous offer”.

“There’s no secret that the UK Government, the US government, just about every other government on the planet was expecting the Taliban to take far, far longer to regain control of Afghanistan,” he added.

“But by the same token, the die was cast once the Doha agreement was signed cast by Trump administration.”

A former interpreter who assisted coalition forces in Afghanistan has called for help to bring his family to the UK following the Taliban takeover of the country.

Responding to reports suggesting a unit of Scotland’s Black Watch battalion would be deployed to Afghanistan, the armed forces minister said there were no such plans.

The Third Scots was the latest regiment due to rotate through the country and are being held at a state of readiness but there is no deployment currently expected.

“It is reassuring to know we have troops ready and good to go if called upon”, Heappey said.

“But let’s be clear the people that are there from the Royal Air Force and from the Parachute Regiment are drawn from across the United Kingdom.”