Chesterfield veteran describes Taliban advance as a “kick in the teeth”

A Chesterfield ex-soldier who served in Afghanistan says the Taliban’s retaking of the country in just over a month is a “massive kick in the teeth”.

Tuesday, 17th August 2021, 3:29 pm
Updated Tuesday, 17th August 2021, 3:30 pm
War veteran Ben Elliott: "The frustration is incredible"

Ben Elliott, 31, served as infantry in the 2009 Operation Herrick 10 - pushing the enemy out of occupied territory through Helmand Province.

During the six-month tour, Ben lost friends which left him with PTSD and ‘survivor guilt’ which still haunts him to this day.

Speaking about the movement’s sweep through the country - which swiftly followed the withdrawal of American troops last month - Ben said: “The frustration is incredible.

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Ben Elliott, 31, served as infantry in the 2009 Operation Herrick

“It’s not just the time and blood, sweat and tears - it’s that the foreign services were trying to build a national Afghan army and it’s like we’ve just left them to it.

“I’m still shocked at the time scale of all this - a lot of time was spent there peacekeeping to try and ensure a better future.

“We were building and training an army, giving them weapons and now within a week it’s gone - the Taliban has just pressed reset.”

Father-of-four Ben has compared the ruthless army’s advance and now full control of the country to the demolition of a new building due to a lack of “planning permission”.

Ben pictured here after having pushed the Taliban out of Compound 18 as part of a combined company of around 30-40 troops.

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Speaking about his own experience of the war he said: “When we were out on patrol there was contact almost all the time.

“But you lose friends - people you’ve had personal experiences with. You go to funerals and see their families upset.

“As soon as 911 happened I wanted to join the Army and be involved - these people play for keeps.”

Ben is pictured here on the back row, third from the right, with the rest of 4 Platoon, 2 Mercian, at Fob Hassanabad, Helmand Province, just before heading out on a daily routine patrol

Ben, who describes his own family background as “broken”, spoke of a “survivor guilt” which still draws him to the country.

He said: “When you see the love and support they had...I love my partner and my kids and I love my job.

“I’ve got a decent life but they’re not even here anymore to have a bad day.”

Angling coach Ben, who describes “plodding on” with help from his supportive other half, says his thoughts are now with former comrades being deployed in a “massive extrication” as the Taliban establish control.

He said: “There are a lot of people linked to the Government, whether financially or through the embassy for example.

“They’ll have to touch down and branch out to get these people in sub-extraction operations.”

Speaking about native Afghans he said: “If there was ever any idea people had an affiliation with foreign forces it could be costly - whether for themselves, their businesses or families.

“Families would bear the brunt of it.”

Reflecting on the 20-year conflict and it’s depressing finale, Ben said: “You could get 10 servicemen who would say the bottom half of this we weren’t there to kill.

“But the Taliban had no rules of engagement and the fact they smashed Russia years ago shows you how they think - they should have been eliminated.

“All we did was push the problem out of the way. We should have carried on and pushed them down.

“It would have taken a few more years but how many trillions have already been spent?”

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