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British minister retracts comments on UK veteran suicides over US Afghan pullout

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Members of the British armed forces 16 Air Assault Brigade walk to the air terminal after disembarking a Royal Air Force Voyager at RAF Brize Norton, west of London on August 29, 2021. (Via AFP)

A British junior defense minister has rowed back on his comments about suicides among UK Afghan veterans, saying he was wrong when he said some former British soldiers took their own lives because they were so devastated by the disastrous US-led withdrawal from Afghanistan.

"Actually the thing I was referring to was inaccurate," James Heappey said. "We're looking very, very carefully at whether or not it is true that someone has taken their life in the last few days."

The junior defense minister had earlier told Sky News that some British military veterans from the Afghan war took their own lives in the past week due to anger over chaotic US-led withdrawal from Afghanistan and the victory of the Taliban.

He initially told Sky News, "I know, unfortunately, there have been soldiers who've served in Afghanistan, indeed a soldier who served with me on my last tour of Afghanistan, who've taken their lives in the last week or so because of the feelings they've had over what's happened in Afghanistan.

Britain's armed forces minister said on Monday it was investigating whether or not some veterans from the Afghan war have taken their own lives.

The humiliation of the lightning Taliban takeover in Afghanistan after a 20-year war that cost hundreds of thousands of lives and at least a trillion dollars has dismayed veterans of the devastating war.

Britain lost 457 armed forces personnel in Afghanistan, or 13 percent of the US-led military coalition's 3,500 fatalities since 2001.

The UK defense ministry said Heappey had misspoken, and that it had no confirmed suicide cases among British Afghan veterans due to the US withdrawal.

The government of Afghanistan rapidly collapsed on August 15 and President Ashraf Ghani fled the country in the face of lightning advances of the Taliban.

The Taliban are now poised to run Afghanistan again 20 years after they were removed from power by American forces following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

The US invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 and removed the Taliban from power. American forces occupied the country for about two decades on the pretext of fighting against the Taliban. But the Taliban stormed into Kabul as the US forces left Afghanistan.

US Republican Congressman Michael McCaul said the situation in Afghanistan is “worse” than before the September 11 terrorist attacks because the Taliban are now “fully armed” with American weaponry.

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