It was a very strange feeling last week when I was awoken by that terrifying BBC News application noise to the update that Britain had finally finished operations in Afghanistan. Camp Bastion had finally been placed into the hands of Afghani troops. The fiercest military campaign since the Second World War was over.
I am 18 years old I find it very hard to remember life pre 9/11; one of my earliest memories is five year old me sat on a sofa on a sick day from school watching the rolling news footage of Flight 175 fly into the South Tower. Like many people my age I consider myself to have grown up surrounded by the fallout of ‘That September Morning’, most significantly the Afghanistan campaign and the ‘War on Terror’.
What does that even mean? ‘The War on Terror’. How can you fight an ideal? Was it just some sort of catchy buzzword, a brand name almost, utilised by Presidents and Prime Ministers to try and give an identity and a cause to the incessant bombs, death and coffins rolling through Wotton Basset.
Last week’s images of the Union Jack being lowered in the desert for the final time were broadcast around the world. People had been waiting for this day for 13 years. Waiting for the day when we had won the war. A war that cost the lives of 453 servicemen and women as well as approximately 21,000 Afghani men, women and children. A war that left the taxpayer with a bill of £37 billion in times of economic hardship and food banks. The war that promised the end of Muslim Extremism against the West and vowed to destroy Taliban forces; yet a war that finishes as the threat of two simple letters, ‘IS’ can strike fear into world leaders and bring cities to a standstill; and perhaps most significantly, a war that ends as the names of James Foley, Alan Henning, Steven Sotloff and David Haines are hitting the headlines for all of the wrong reasons.
Britain’s War on Terror is over. Our soldiers are coming home. Yet they are coming home to a nation confused, resentful, fearful and one tainted by xenophobia.