‘It’s absolutely heart-breaking’ watching Afghanistan ‘go up in smoke’ – veteran

Former Royal Engineer Jack Cummings, 33, spoke with PA following the 11th anniversary of losing his legs in Afghanistan.

Former Royal Engineer Jack Cummings
Former Royal Engineer Jack Cummings

An Afghanistan veteran has said it is “absolutely heart-breaking” watching the country he fought for “go up in smoke” following the 11th anniversary of losing his legs in an explosion there.

Former Royal Engineer Jack Cummings, 33, suffered his near-fatal injury on August 14 2010, and has questioned the Prime Minister’s assertion that British troops did not make life-changing sacrifices “in vain” now that the Taliban has resurged.

Mr Cummings, from Didcot, Oxfordshire, served two terms in 2007 and 2010 in Helmand province, south Afghanistan, with a bomb disposal team as part of Operation Herrick.

Former Royal Engineer Jack Cummings has said the situation in Afghanistan is 'absolutely heart-breaking' (Jack Cummings/PA).
Former Royal Engineer Jack Cummings has said the situation in Afghanistan is ‘absolutely heart-breaking’ (Jack Cummings/PA)

On the resurgence of the Taliban in recent weeks, he said: “I feel angry, upset, and everything else in between.

“It’s a real mix of emotions, especially when it’s happening on the anniversary.

“I got injured 11 years ago on Saturday, so it was very raw and emotional for me.

“I needed to air a bit of anger and put my two pence in, because it was just so raw seeing the country I fought for go up in smoke so quickly, once the Americans and us Brits had pulled out.

Former Royal Engineer Jack Cummings lost his legs in an explosion in Afghanistan in 2010 (Jack Cummings)
Jack Cummings lost his legs in an explosion in Afghanistan in 2010 (Jack Cummings/PA)

“We trained up so many Afghans to look after themselves and defend themselves,” he added.

“They got all the funding and the top weapons and everything that goes with that.

“To see it go up like that is just heart-breaking, absolutely heart-breaking.”

The veteran questioned whether politicians like Boris Johnson would be able to justify the sacrifices made by British troops, including the 457 who died, to the faces of their grieving relatives.

Mr Johnson told reporters last week that soldiers’ efforts were not “in vain” because “to a very large extent the threat from al Qaida on the streets of our capital, around the UK, around the whole of the West, was greatly, greatly reduced”.

Mr Cummings said: “Would they say that to a grieving widow or a grieving father after all these years?

“I don’t know if they would.”

When asked whether the Government is doing enough to respond to the humanitarian crisis, he said: “I can only voice my opinion.

“I know 600 paratroopers had gone out and they’re putting out as many as possible.

“I can only hope all 600 of them come home safe and sound and that they can pull out as many people as possible.

“I hope they bring home the interpreters, they were so needed for us to translate for us and they’ve got every right to come over here.

“I hope as many of them as possible get a chance to come over here and live a peaceful, free life.”

Jack Cummings served two terms in Afghanistan detecting bombs in 2007 and 2010 (Jack Cummings)
Jack Cummings served two terms in Afghanistan in 2007 and 2010 (Jack Cummings/PA)

Coming from a “military family” including his father who also served in the army, Mr Cummings said he was “more than happy to take the risk” being deployed in Afghanistan, and if he could he would be “more than happy to do it again”.

But he added that his mental health suffered after stepping on the bomb which left him wheelchair-bound, and that he thinks many veterans will be “struggling” seeing the Taliban’s resurgence.

“From the mental health side, I know a lot of British servicemen will be watching the events unfold and they will be struggling with their mental health and all I can say is look after each other and, if you’re struggling, speak to each other,” he said.

“I think there will be a raw mix of emotions for quite a few of the guys and I can’t imagine how the bereaved families are feeling and what they’re going through.”

Mr Cummings recommended seeking support via charities including Blesma on 020 8590 1124, Help For Heroes on 0300 303 9888 and the Royal British Legion on 0808 802 8080.

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