On a sunny morning in Kabul, British troops silently lowered a Union flag from its mast, a poignant moment symbolising the end of their 20-year military campaign in Afghanistan.
Gentle birdsong could be heard as soldiers from the historic Black Watch battalion folded the flag to present to their commander; himself a veteran of some of the most fierce fighting endured by British troops in the war-ravaged country.
Brigadier Oliver Brown, the outgoing commander of the Kabul Security Force, described the ceremony as being 'tinged with emotion' for the '457 British lives lost' since the war against the Taliban began in 2001, 'and for those severely wounded'.
Just over a decade ago, Brigadier Brown, then a major in the Royal Anglian Regiment, led his men into battle in Helmand province. It was 2009 – a year in which 95 UK troops died fighting the militants who, as the Prime Minister acknowledged for the first time yesterday, will almost certainly be involved in governing Afghanistan in the years ahead.
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On a sunny morning in Kabul, British troops silently lowered a Union flag from its mast, a poignant moment symbolising the end of their 20-year military campaign in Afghanistan
Footage of the recent ceremony in Kabul was released as – 3,500 miles away in London – Boris Johnson paid tribute in the House of Commons to the 'efforts and sacrifices' of British troops which, he insisted, had not been in vain.
The Prime Minister pointed to the successes of the UK's contribution to the Nato campaign in Afghanistan, the 3.6 million girls who are now permitted to attend schools, the women previously forbidden to play roles in public life who now sit in the country's parliament and the 340,000 acres of land cleared of deadly landmines.
And he issued a thinly veiled threat, suggesting the Taliban would face further UK military action should they strip Afghans of their human rights – freedoms paid for in British soldiers' blood and £37 billion of taxpayers' money.
He personally commended Afghan interpreters who risked their lives alongside our troops, saying this country owed them 'an enormous debt'.
British forces would not have