Mothers of British soldiers killed and injured in have spoken of their sense of waste after hearing of the fall of most of Sangin to the Taliban.
Diane Dernie’s son Ben Parkinson needs round-the-clock care after losing his legs and suffering brain damage from a Taliban bomb in Helmand province in 2006.
Dernie said that when Afghanistan was mentioned in the news she felt “sadness and anger”.
Interviewed on after the , a Helmand town where more than 100 British troops were killed, she added: “Most of all [I feel] a desperate sense of waste and fear that we are still not learning the lessons and that’s British troops that are going to pay the price for that failure to learn.”
Asked what lessons the UK should learn from Afghanistan, Dernie said: “That you don’t get yourself involved in an underfunded, under-defined, under-supported war in an isolation position ... We don’t have the resources to take on these issues by ourselves.”
She added: “That was always the problem, that we never knew what we were trying to achieve. The mission seemed to change constantly according to circumstance.”
Judy Gaden, whose son Tom Gaden was killed by a bomb in Afghanistan in 2009, said Afghans were grateful to British troops. But she added: “It’s tragic that these things aren’t looked at in the fuller picture before troops are deployed.”
General Richard Dannatt, former chief of the general staff, said he was not surprised by the fall of Sangin. He said: “We always knew that the situation once we left Helmand would be difficult. We left Afghanistan in a situation where the Afghans were in control and the future was in their hands. It is not a great surprise that the Taliban have continued to push in southern Afghanistan, it’s their heartland.”
Asked if more troops should be deployed to Afghanistan, Lord Dannatt said the conflict in Syria and the continuing instability in Libya were a higher priority.
He said: “The government now has a strategic choice which it is going to have to think long and hard about. We have limited resources particularly after the army was cut by 20%.”
“All of these things get at the same problem which is the growth of so-called Islamic State-type jihadi influence. We can’t do all of those things. The government has got to decide what its priority is.”