THE dad of a Sunderland serviceman killed in Afghanistan says he has “mixed feelings” as British troops finally depart the war-torn country.
UK forces have handed Camp Bastion in Helmand province over to Afghan officials, concluding their bloodiest chapter in the 13-year conflict with a poignant ceremony on Sunday.
British and American troops stood side by side as the Union flag and the Stars and Stripes were lowered at the base for the last time.
More than 450 servicemen and women have died since fighting began in the country.
Combat personnel will be withdrawn entirely from Afghanistan by the end of the year.
Tom Cuthbertson’s son Nathan was just 19 when he was killed while serving with 2 Para in Afghanistan in June 2008.
Nathan, along with Privates David Murray, 19, and Daniel Gamble, 22, were the victims of a suicide bomb attack.
Tom, 45, who works for the Ambulance Service, served with the Paras in Northern Ireland.
He told the Echo: “I’ve got mixed feelings about it if I’m honest.
“I feel as though part of Nathan is still there and that will never change.
“Far too many lives have been lost and it’s a disgrace. But they are leaving a legacy behind because they’ve helped a lot of people.
“None of the soldiers who’ve been killed have died in vain.”
Despite the progress made in the country however, Tom, of Tunstall, feels that the situation will never be completely resolved.
“In my opinion, the job out there will never be done entirely,” he said.
“The trouble will go on forever like in Iraq.
“But at least the troops have given the people in Afghanistan some confidence and stability.
“There will always be terrorists like the Taliban and IS and they won’t ever go away.”
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said the campaign had given Afghanistan the best possible chance of a stable future, but later admitted that there was “no guarantee” that it would remain safe.
“We have denied Afghanistan as a safe haven for terrorism and terrorist atrocities that could take place in Britain and western Europe,” said Mr Fallon. “To that extent, the mission has been accomplished in Afghanistan, but there is no guarantee that Afghanistan is going to be stable and safe.
“What we are saying to you is that we have given Afghanistan the best possible chance of a safer future, primarily through the sacrifice of our own troops and other Nato troops, in building up the Afghan army itself.”