Ex-Defence Forces chief to return medal over Afghanistan troop exit

‘We went into Afghanistan 20 years ago to help the people ... that’s why we went in’

Taliban Islamists in Kabul on Monday following the government collapse. Photograph: EPA

Taliban Islamists in Kabul on Monday following the government collapse. Photograph: EPA


A former senior Defence Forces chief is to hand back his US-awarded medal of service over the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.

Ray Lane, a retired lieutenant colonel and globally renowned expert in improvised explosive devices (IEDs), built up through his experience in Ireland, led a mission to save countless lives in Afghanistan from makeshift bombs.

The military chief said his time – along with eight other Irish soldiers – was “totally wasted” as the Taliban takes over the country following the withdrawal of US and British troops.

“When I left Afghanistan, I was awarded a meritorious medal, which they don’t normally give to non-Americans,” he told The Irish Times.

“I am going to send that back to the US embassy now.”

Mr Lane said he was “outraged” by the retreat.

“We went into Afghanistan 20 years ago to help the people of Afghanistan, to give them a stable environment, to allow children and women to go to school, to give people a chance of a fair crack, that’s why we went in,” he said.

“The mission was to achieve that. We failed to see out our mission. In military terms that is not on.”

Mr Lane said he led a reconnaissance mission to Afghanistan in 2002 for two months. In 2009, he led an Irish delegation over seven months who worked with Nato chiefs, Afghan military and police as well local schools and the general population to warn of the dangers of IEDs.

The explosives account for 55 per cent of all casualties in the country, he said.

Mr Lane said the mission saved countless lives.

“We have totally wasted our time there,” he said.

“Thank God I brought the people who were there with me home alive. They could have been killed. The last thing I expected to see was Nato retreating from Afghanistan. Our time there was totally wasted. I feel really bad today.”

‘It’s a black day’

Of the families of thousands of Nato soldiers killed in the region and those of Afghan civilian fatalities, he said: “I wonder how they feel today. It’s a black day.”

Mr Lane warned he believed the pull out would lead to other terrorist atrocities like the 9/11 attacks on New York’s World Trade Centre.

“In a few months time, when the Taliban stop talking rubbish about how they’re a different Taliban, when they start applying Sharia law, just wait for it,” he said.

“Talk about the Twin Towers. That is where this is going. We’re going to see other terrorist acts globally starting in Afghanistan. It will be a training ground for terrorists. We will see major terrorist acts.”

Afghanistan will become a “training ground” for terrorists, he said.

“The Americans are the senior partners in Nato. How can the other members of countries like Germany and France not stand up and say this is wrong,” he added.

“It’s over. There’s no going back here. The Taliban has developed capability under the eyes of Nato, with predators in the air 24/7. Imagine what they are going to do with nobody there.”