Afghanistan: Success or failure? Former UK commander Richard Barrons


After twenty years of conflict, and almost two hundred thousand civilian and military lives lost, the Taliban are once again in control of Afghanistan.  

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken continues to insist the mission was successful – if the overriding purpose was to stop Afghanistan being a safe haven for Al-Qaeda terrorists. But to the rest of the world, Afghanistan looks far more like a failure. So who is correct?

Here, Stephen Cole gets the view of General Sir Richard Barrons, Former Commander of the British Army's Joint Forces Command, who served in Afghanistan from October 2009.


General Sir Richard Barrons served extensively on operations in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan and has completed a range of regimental duties in the UK, Germany and worldwide on training.

He was appointed Chief of Staff of the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps in April 2009 and, shortly afterwards, became Director Force Reintegration in HQ ISAF assisting the Afghan Government's efforts on Taliban reintegration and political reconciliation.

He assumed command of Joint Forces Command on promotion to General, 19 April 2013.


"I think there are grounds for saying it's been successful, but they're rather limited." Sir Richard tells Stephen, "but the future looks much more uncertain than it did when the US-led Western forces were in the country."

And he seems pretty clear as to what drove the decision for US forces to leave the country: "I think this is driven by domestic political reasons, infected by the very difficult outcome in Iraq and the sense that the deployment in Afghanistan wasn't going anywhere."

And when asked whether this will have a lasting effect on Western military policy, General Sir Richard is unequivocal. "You know, I truly, truly hope so…" he says "this is such a blow to Western standing reputation and strategic interest, that it's going to cause some introspection."

But the West may not have too much time to think: "Just coming down the road, there are things that are going to happen in our world where every nation is going to have to stand up with its friends to protect its security and its prosperity and its values and its interests. And the West is going to have to rediscover the will and the capability to go abroad and do that with it, with its partners, or it'll just get pushed around."


· Farzana Elham, Afghan MP and women's rights campaigner talks to Stephen from Kabul about her very real concerns about the future for Afghan women.

· Award-winning journalist Jim Laurie – the only US reporter to remain in Saigon after its fall in 1975 – joins us to consider how events in Kabul might impact America's military and diplomatic image across the world.

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