NORTHERN Ireland Veterans’ Commissioner Danny Kinahan has said that his door is open to former servicemen left traumatised by the disturbing pictures coming from Afghanistan.
Despite a 20-year military campaign which cost scores of lives in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in 2001, the withdrawal of troops from the region has been followed by the resurrection of the Taliban, who took the capital Kabul at the weekend after months of advances in rural areas.
Thousands of desperate Afghans, many of whom assisted UK and USA troops during the conflict as civilian staff and interpreters, are now trying to flee the country, as well as women and girls who fear crippling restrictions on access to education and employment.
Speaking to the Antrim Guardian last night the former army officer (pictured left), said the hasty withdrawal will inevitably be ‘demoralising’ for former service personnel.
“The scenes that we are seeing broadcast on television are both concerning and sad for our troops, veterans and families who have given so much in this conflict,” said the former South Antrim MP, MLA and local councillor.
“Many veterans and service personnel have returned from Afghanistan with physical and mental scars and no doubt the news today will be disheartening and demoralising.
“That said, it should be recognised that our brave men and women of the Armed Forces served with professionalism, pride and tenacity in one of the most difficult theatres of operation in the world.
“It is unfortunate that the outcome we aspired to, did not become the reality. I would urge any veteran that is suffering from a result of this news or any veteran that needs help and support through these difficult times to get in touch.
“We are, and forever will be, a band of brother and sisters who understand what it means to have served.
“My thoughts are of course with the families and friends of those who did not return as well as those interpreters and local nationals who assisted us for 20 years.
“Both my office as the Northern Ireland Veterans’ Commissioners Office and that of the Northern Ireland Veterans Support Office are here to help and support veterans and urge you to reach out if needed.”