Anger of Warwickshire family whose Paratrooper son was killed in Afghanistan
WATCHING the unfolding situation in Afghanistan, as the Taliban eased their way back into power, is not easy for anyone who has served in the Armed forces.
But it’s heart-breaking for the friends and families of soldiers who were sent to the Afghan conflict and never returned.
Tony Lewis, the father of Claverdon Paratrooper Conrad Lewis, said he has watched the events with anger and shock.
Conrad was killed serving in the war-torn country in 2011. While on patrol with the Parachute Regiment, he was shot by a sniper. He was just 22.
The chaotic scenes captured at Kabul Airport, the reports of executions and torture, and the collapse of the Afghan government have infuriated Tony.
“I’m angry,” he said. “I’ve spoken to other bereaved families and we are all angry. Our kids made a difference in Afghanistan and also made the ultimate sacrifice with their lives.
“When we first went to Afghanistan 20 years ago there were 500,000 citizens in Kabul, by the time we left there were six million. We are very sad and appalled with the speed of the Taliban advance – it’s the naivety of the western alliance that has let down the Afghans.”
He feels deeply for the ordinary people of the country and is worried about their future under the Taliban regime.
Just like his son Conrad, Tony visited Afghanistan in 2014 and saw a country growing in confidence and inspired by hope.
“We were there for 20 years and we gave them hope. Young girls went to school, young ladies got degrees.
“I went to a school in Kabul where 1,500 girls attended in the morning and 1,500 girls attended in the afternoon, that’s 3,000 girls each day.
“Hotels, restaurants, wedding shops and electrical shops were open again. That’s the difference we made when we were there. Now we see people clinging to a US Airforce plane which is almost smothered by hundreds of people as if they want to cling on and get any ride out of there.”
He added: “We’ve done a massive disservice to the people of Afghanistan. We owe a debt to them and the interpreters who helped us, but we’ve just acquiesced.”
Was the loss of British lives in Afghanistan – including his son Conrad – in vain?
“We were there defending ourselves from a distant shore. Our armed forces were protecting us after 9/11 and 7/7 and terrorism,” is Tony’s response, but not a day goes by when he doesn’t think about Conrad.
He added: “I’ve got a picture of him and he’s staring at me every day.”
The family – mum Sandi, sister Siobahn and brother Jordan – still have links to Afghanistan through an animal charity.
When Conrad was in Afghanistan he was befriended by a stray dog that followed him everywhere. He adopted the animal and called her Peg, after the Pegasus emblem of the Parachute Regiment. During Tony’s 2014 visit he found a companion for Peg, a dog from Kabul which the family adopted.
The family now support an animal charity called Nowzad, which was founded by a Royal Marine and has helped more than 1,700 dogs from Afghanistan find homes with soldiers and contractors who served in the country.
“Nowzad has a vet clinic in Kabul named in honour of Conrad – Conrad’s Clinic – but I’m very worried for the vets
who work for the charity because they were helping Western soldiers who adopted the dogs,” explained Tony. “There are also female vets who have trained hard for their jobs and I don’t what the future holds for them under the Taliban.”