Soldier Alasdair defends Britain's Afghan presence

Politician soldier Alasdair Ross today said it was vital for western nations to remain in Afghanistan - despite fears that troops could be needed there for decades.

IPSWICH: Politician soldier Alasdair Ross today said it was vital for western nations to remain in Afghanistan - despite fears that troops could be needed there for decades.

Mr Ross, who is Labour councillor for Rushmere, spent six months in Sangin after being recalled as a sergeant major in The Rifles - an experience that helped convince him that Britain is right to be in the country.

Now back at home and with his army days behind him, Mr Ross reflected after a bloody year which saw 108 British service personnel die in Afghanistan.

He said: “If the British and troops from other countries were not in Afghanistan then that country would fall to the Taliban and the same thing would happen in Pakistan.

“That is a country with nuclear weapons, and it would be facing another country with nuclear weapons (India) which would be terrifying for the whole of the world.”

He felt the British troops were helping to make life safer for Afghan civilians - although their efforts were not always appreciated.

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He said: “Most of them are not keen to be seen talking to you in the street because they don't know if the Taliban is watching - although they do want the troops to buy things from their shops.

“They are more friendly in their own homes and will offer you tea or sweets - but many would rather we were not there. A large number of Afghans are injured by home-made bombs and they think if we were not there then they would be safer.

“But the fact is that if the army was not there, there would be no schools or doctors because the Taliban would close them all down again.

“Shops are opening at the rate of about 20 a week in Sangin, and that is good for the area. The Afghans are rather like the British in that they are a nation of shopkeepers.”

Mr Ross said it was quite possible troops would have to stay in Afghanistan for many decades - but that should not be a matter of concern.

“The nature of the work should change - Britain has had a presence on Cyprus for about 50 years now but it isn't a conflict situation. It is vital for the security of the world that we stay in Afghanistan,” he said.