Don’t give up on Afganistan, urges former forces chief

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The former head of the Armed Forces has appealed to Britain and other Western powers not to give up on Afghanistan after the final withdrawal of international forces later this year.

General Lord Richards of Herstmonceux warned war-weary Nato leaders that it would be “on their conscience” if they failed to honour the commitments their countries had made to the Afghan people.

In an interview for BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, Gen Richards, who stood down last year as Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS), said it was “very disappointing” that the West was hesitating over its continued support.

He expressed particular concern that the gains made by Afghan women while the international force (Isaf) was in the country could be lost.

“That is one of the risks that, as our nation and others hesitate about sustaining their assistance to Afghanistan, will have to be on the conscience of those who decide not to do what I feel we have committed our country and all the other contributing nations of Isaf (to do),” he said.

“Be it on their conscience. I, as the father of two daughters, feel this particularly strongly. My wife runs, with others, a charity which is dedicated to bringing education to children.

“All that could be put at risk and for what? Because we have tired of it? OK, I know it’s been a long haul, we are changing the strategy, I just ask people not to give up on it altogether.”

While Gen Richards, a former commander of Isaf forces, stressed the lot of the average Afghan was “vastly better” as a result of the international presence, he expressed some sympathy with President Hamid Karzai when he complained they had left the country worse off.

“Obviously in a narrow sense I was disappointed to hear that. I know he sometimes does come out with some things I’d rather he didn’t say but actually he has done a hell of a lot for the country,” he said.