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East Lancs hero soldier’s fear over Afghan withdrawal
A SOLDIER who lost both legs in Afghanistan has said there is still much work to be done in the war-stricken country.
Rick Clement, 34, spoke out as the UK's military headquarters in Helmand was disbanded in the latest major step in the withdrawal of British troops.
British-led Task Force Helmand came to an end on Tuesday after eight years of frontline military operations involving tens of thousands of UK servicemen and women.
Mr Clement, from Chatburn, was leading a foot patrol when he stepped on a landmine which caused his devastating injuries four years ago.
The former Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment platoon sergeant said: “I feel mixed about the news. I’m glad that no more British troops will be killed there but I still think there is a lot of work to be done in Afghanistan.
“To build a relationship with the people and to change things for them for the better, which is what I believed we were doing, would take a long time and it just isn’t there yet.
“I’m not sure that the Afghans trust British soldiers completely and my fear is that pulling out gives the run of the place back to the Taliban who will be able to use it for their training again.”
Since the start of operations in October 2001, more than 14,000 Afghan civilians have been killed and 448 British forces personnel or MoD civilians lost their lives.
East Lancashire lost Marine Jonathan Holland, a 23-year-old from Chorley; Private Jason Lee Rawstron, 23, from Clayton-le-Moors; Lance Corporal Michael Foley, a 25-year-old from Nelson; Lance Corporal Jordan Dean Bancroft, 25, from Burnley; Sergeant Gareth Thursby, a 29-year-old whose mother was from Padiham; Corporal Jack Stanley, 26, from Todmorden and 24-year-old Blackburn Marine David Fairbrother.
Mr Clement, who runs A Soldier’s Journey, a charity to help injured veterans, said conditions in Afghanistan were ‘very, very basic’ and native communities were blighted with poverty.
Despite his injuries, Mr Clement said he bore no resentment to the government.
The functions of Task Force Helmand will be absorbed into the wider US-led Regional Command but British forces will continue to support their Afghan counterparts in Helmand.
Darwen councillor and Armed Forces Champion, Trevor Maxfield said: “I just see it going the same way as Iraq with private contractors moving in and I don’t think that would be a good thing.”
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