A BASINGSTOKE army veteran who served in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kosovo has spoken out about the need for UK government action following the Taliban’s surge in power in recent days.

Lance Corporal Alex Lee, served from 2001 to 2014 with the Royal Signals HQ 1 Mechanised Brigade, including in Afghanistan in 2013. He is now secretary of Labour Friends of the Forces organisation and stood in the May 2021 borough council elections as the Labour candidate for Winklebury & Manydown.

Speaking to the Gazette, he said: “I am shocked with what’s going on out in Afghanistan at the moment, but it’s hard to do anything when you’re out of service and back home.

”It’s hard, it’s upsetting. The time that we spent out there to support Afghan people, to see that it’s rolled back in the space of a few days has really been quite depressing to watch to be honest.”

Alex, who served in the Helmand province in 2013 and was part of the group who helped move the British HQ from Lashkar Gah to Camp Bastion, added: “I saw people who were a force of good, and it just seems to have gone to waste in a matter of days.

“For a young generation of people, those born from 2001 onwards, they have gained some sense of security. There are women, girls, children who have had security, stability. We have seen reports of how it is changing in Kabul over the last few days - before it was busy on the streets and now people have retreated, and gone back to more traditional clothing because they are scared for their lives.”

Alex said it would be “above his pay grade” to comment on whether western troops were pulled from Afghanistan too soon, but added: “We pulled the rug out from beneath the people who have supported us as well. Contractors, translators. But whether we were there or not is neither here nor there. What we need to do now is ensure that anybody who needs to get back to the UK, whether that's British passport holders or people who have worked for us, get to be immediately brought back for their safety, and their families as well.”

Looking forward, he continued: “We pulled out, that was our decision. We have put a country in a position where there will be, without a doubt, a humanitarian crisis. They will be looking for ways to leave the country and the [UK] government needs to provide that support, both to them and to neighbouring countries which are now going to see an influx of migration.”

Alex said he “welcomes the fact that parliament has been recalled” and, speaking of what answers he wants it to offer, he continued: “What support the government are going to do for countries neighbouring Afghanistan with the crisis that's going to be on their doorstep within weeks, and to understand the safe and legal asylum routes to support people, because we have abandoned them at the end of the day.”


Speaking to families of fallen soldiers at what is an extremely difficult time, Alex added: “I don’t think I could ever take away the pain they face, but when I was out there I saw what the efforts did to help people. They did have security and stability for 20 years. We could look out on an area of open land and see children playing cricket.

“We may have lost lives, but that was not in vain in any sense because we enabled people to have a life.”

Appealing to the local communities in Basingstoke, Alex reminded people of the need to support the entire armed forces community, particularly at this time, adding: “What can we as Basingstoke do to help those who will now be repatriated?

“And for veterans, personnel and families, what support can the government offer us with our mental health?”