BORIS Johnson hailed the heroic efforts of British troops in Afghanistan last night and declared: “You should feel immense pride.”
The PM sent a personal message to members of the armed forces to praise the speed at which they airlifted 14,000 people to sanctuary.
And he assured others who had served in the war zone that their bravery and commitment had not been in vain but had kept terrorists from our door for 20 years.
In a heartfelt letter, Mr Johnson reveals he has been “lost in admiration” for the huge operation carried out in the face of huge terrorist threats over the past few days.
He acknowledged the past few weeks had been especially tough for friends and loved ones of the 457 British service personnel who laid down their lives.
But in offering his “profound thanks” he insisted: “Without hesitation…you should take the greatest pride in your achievements.
Mr Johnson stressed that the thousands who served in Afghanistan had succeeded in their central mission – to protect the UK from harm.
He said: “In the last 20 years, not a single terrorist attack has been launched from Afghan soil against the UK or any other Western country.
“I know this was not down to chanced or good fortune. Our country was protected because you joined with our allies to fight Al-Qaeda, destroy its training camps, disperse or eliminate its leaders, and weaken its very core.
“I would not wish to contemplate what might have happened if you had not carried out this vital task. You kept Al-Qaeda from our door from two decades and we are all safer as a result.”
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The PM added that despite working in hostile and arduous conditions, they did their utmost to help people of one of the world’s poorest countries.
Their achievements can be seen in the homes that now have electricity for the first time, he said, fields once strewn with landmines that are now safe for cultivation and schools where 3.6 million girls are educated.
Mr Johnson writes: “I do not believe that any of these gains could be swiftly undone.
“Education, once imparted, can never be taken away. And this progress would never have happened at all without your effort and sacrifice.
“Whether you are still serving or a veteran, a loved-one, a relation or a friend, you all played your part and should feel immense pride.”
He adds: “Do not lose sight of the essential fact that you fulfilled the first duty of the British Armed Forces – to protect our country – and we shall be forever grateful for that.”