Why we must remember Afghanistan conflict – Dan Jarvis

THIS year’s period of Remembrance takes place against the backdrop of our departure from Afghanistan, an event which continues to cause widespread disillusionment and severe anguish.

Around 150,000 men and women from our Armed Forces left home for Afghanistan, tragically 457 never made it 
back.

Thousands are today suffering with the mental and physical effects of the campaign. Many are still trying to make sense of the price paid individually and collectively over two decades of bloody conflict, the result of which saw the Taliban sweep to victory and the country descend into an ever-worsening humanitarian catastrophe.

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Rows of poppies on crosses are laid out in the Field of Remembrance outside Westminster Abbey in central London.

Remembrance will always be rooted in our relationship with the Britain of yesterday.

Given the devastating events over the summer, it is especially important we also reflect on the significance of Remembrance to the Britain of today and what relevance it has to the Britain of tomorrow.

The First World War gave birth to the concept of Remembrance as we know it. Some believe that war, though appalling, was necessary and needed to be fought.

.Handout photo issued by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) of Lt Cdr Alex Pelham Burns, a member of the UK Armed Forces who took part in the evacuation of entitled personnel from Kabul Airport, offering water to a child.

Others argue the sacrifice was futile, in a conflict that achieved nothing, and that could and should have been avoided.

Many other conflicts that have claimed the lives of our servicemen and women have sparked similar differences of opinion, none more recent than the war in Afghanistan.

Regardless of your opinion, my contention is the same. No matter what we think of the decisions that have sent our soldiers into conflict through the ages – whether to Serre or Sangin – we have a duty to support our Armed Forces and bear witness to their sacrifice.

Those who served on the frontline and lost their lives in the war in Afghanistan are not accountable for its failure. Remembrance is our chance to ensure their service, courage, and memory is not forgotten.

Dan Jarvis MBE is the Labour MP for Barnsley Central, Mayor of South Yorkshire and a former British Army Major.

This week will prove difficult for many who served in the conflict.

The questions being asked by those whose lives were irrevocably changed by the Afghan campaign have no easy answers.

We must be mindful that their relationship with Afghanistan did not end when the last plane took off from the runway at Kabul airport.

Parents who lost children still grieve. Veterans who served still hurt. Families who were separated still agonise.

.Handout photo issued by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) of Lt Cdr Alex Pelham Burns, a member of the UK Armed Forces who took part in the evacuation of entitled personnel from Kabul Airport, offering water to a child.

They will forever be emotionally tied to the country. We can’t ever know what they are going through, but we can show that we care, that we recognise their pain and that we stand with them.

Nor should we not overlook the opportunity Remembrance affords us to contemplate our future.

President John F Kennedy once said: “I realise that the pursuit of peace is not as dramatic as the pursuit of 
war – and frequently the words 
of the pursuer fall on deaf ears. But we have no more urgent task.”

I believe those words are as true today as when they were first spoken.

True because the fate of millions of people across the world rests on us pursuing the right course.

Remembrance ensures the cost of peace and the consequence of war are at the forefront of our minds so that next time we make the right decision.

If we truly commit to doing so, then no lives were ever lost in vain.

Only by striving towards a more peaceful and prosperous tomorrow can we truly repay 
the debt we owe those who 
laid down their lives for us yesterday.

On Sunday and under these challenging circumstances, when we join to say “We will remember them”, it must be more than sentiment.

It is recognition of the value of our shared history. It is respect for those who serve and who continue to serve us.

Above all, it is a reminder 
that Remembrance is timeless – not simply about what came before, but something that 
lives within us, something we 
will pass on through the generations.

Our failure in Afghanistan 
is a bitter pill to swallow, particularly for those whose loved ones did not come home, and for those who saw comrades fall and continue to witness 
the decline of friends impacted by their service. During this period of Remembrance, they must be at the forefront of our minds.

Dan Jarvis MBE is the Labour MP for Barnsley Central, Mayor of South Yorkshire and a former British Army Major.

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