"That was probably the biggest middle finger we could have given to the Taliban": father of fallen Warwick soldier gives his thoughts on the re-taking of Afghanistan
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The father of a Warwick soldier who was killed in Afghanistan has said he is appalled at how the Taliban has been allowed to re-take the country.
Private Conrad Lewis, who served as a member of the Fire Support Group attached to A Company, 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment (3 PARA) was deployed to Afghanistan on October 10 2010.
On February 9 2011, at the age of 22, he became the 353rd soldier to be killed in Afghanistan when he was shot by a Taliban sniper while deployed on an operation to reassure the local population in the Nad ‘Ali district of Helmand province.
Conrad's family founded the 353 charity in his memory.
His father Tony has since spoken of how Conrad and many other soldiers had gone out to Afghanistan with the thought of "making a difference" and how that aim had been achieved.
But now, much of that work seems to have been undone as the Taliban swept back into the country's capital city Kabul on Sunday signaling the end of a two-decade war against them led by the US.
Tony said: "I am angry and appalled at how it has been handled .
"There is no way a Western alliance of the size that has been there for 20 years should acquiesce so easily and hand the country back to the people who were forced out of it.
"It is unforgivable.
"We had spent 20 years giving people out there some hope, having schools and universities re-open, having women graduating in all sorts of disciplines and most of them playing a role in rebuilding the country."
Tony visited Afghanistan in 2014 while the Taliban's withdrawal was taking place and one of the positive things he saw was a school which was open to 3,000 girls per day.
He said: "I remember when one young girl of 13 or 14 stood up to greet me in near perfect English.
Her ambitions were to go to uni, become a doctor and help to rebuild her country.
"She will be 20 now so what does the future hold for her there?
"But it has been said that you can kill people but you can't can't kill hope.
"Their hope may have been damaged but it's more difficult to change country and when it has changed fundamentally.
"On behalf on all soldiers who lost their lives out there I think most felt they were making a difference and they they could see it.
"People were opening businesses, returning to market stalls their lives were getting better
"I don't believe these efforts were in vain.
"I know others will have their own views but if you can give people hope in a country like that for 20 years you have achieved something.
"Obviously it had tragic consequences for my family but I have to look at it positively as well."
As thousands of people try to escape from Afghanistan the plight of the staff and founder Paul 'Pen' Farthing of the Kabul-based Nowzad animal shelter - which rescued Conrad's dog Pegasus from Afghanistan and arranged for the animal to live with the Lewis family - is of grave concern to Tony.
Pen, a former Royal Marine who founded Nowzad 15 years ago, has vowed to stay in Kabul until all of the charity's 71 staff are flown out of Afghanistan and has made an impassioned plea to the British Government to help them to do so.Tony, who also owns another dog called Kohi which was rescued by Nowzad, said: "We have had a relationship with Nowzad ever since Cornad's death and its clinic is named after him.
"Our charity 353 has provided significant resources to the cause including paying the salaries of its vets including female ones
"That was probably the biggest middle finger we could have given to the Taliban.
"It is a legacy project, which changed attitudes towards animal welfare and attitudes of people being allowed pets and training to look after them - none of which was possible under the Taliban.
"Over the past days we have been dedicated to doing what Pen wants to do provide money to them and agitating MPs to help Pen and his trained and dedicated staff who face real danger and deserve to find a safe haven.
"They all have jobs here waiting for them with Pets at Home which has also donated £25,000 to the cause and is also agitating the Government.
"One MP who has been involved in the evacuation process asked for a video message for Boris Johnson which was played to him before debate.
"It explained what Nowzad meant to us, that the salaries of its staff have been funded by British people and that it is an organisiation helping UK and allied soldiers.
"Another one thing people tended to forget was that if a civilian contractor was using working dogs out there that Conrad's Clinic was the only place they could take the animals for treatment.
"People can help by donating to the Nowzad.com website and continue to lobby members of Parliament.
"If the people and animals out there can get to a safe place then that would be a great story from a bad situation."