The war in Afghanistan: Was it worth it?

In 2006, the soldiers of C Company, 3rd Battalion the Parachute Regiment, posed for a photo at their base in Sangin in Afghanistan's Helmand Province. At that time, Sangin was the most dangerous place on earth, the centre of British forces' fight against the Taliban. The Paras were sent to Helmand Province after the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, a response to the September 11 terror attacks in the United States. The campaign lasted 20 years and cost the lives of 457 British soldiers. ITV News has tried to trace the people on the C Company photograph 15 years on to tell their stories, in our series Afghanistan: Photo From The Frontline.

By ITV News Senior News Editor Paul Tyson

Was it worth it?

For anyone who wasn’t there, this may seem like an easy question to answer.

The war in Afghanistan cost the lives of 457 British servicemen and women, with hundreds more seriously wounded. The United States lost over 2,400 service members and their Afghan National Army and Police allies lost 66,000. At least 47,000 civilians were killed.

Financially the war has cost the UK well over £22 billion, the Americans some $2 trillion.

Yet 20 years after the allies invaded Afghanistan, the Taliban control a large and growing portion of the country, the opium trade continues to flourish, Al Qaeda are still active and ordinary Afghans have seen very little positive change.

There have been some minor successes: Afghanistan has held democratic elections, infant mortality and girls’ literacy have improved and some development projects were successful.

But that’s about as far as it goes.

For the soldiers of C Company, 3 Para, who fought in Helmand Province, the answer is hard to find.

C Company posed for this photograph ahead of their tour in Afghanistan in 2006.

As soldiers they did what they had trained for and did it well, fighting the Taliban to a standstill, inflicting heavy casualties and forcing them to change their tactics.

Simon Bedford, a Platoon Commander in 2006, has no regrets.

"I'm not sure I can answer yes or no.

"We had a job to do and the politicians in whom we have to have trust decided that was the right thing to do at the time.

"It was worth going out there, I don’t feel any embarrassment for doing it, it was a decision that was made and we were the tools to do it.”

'I'm proud of my time': Doug Hook said he doesn't want to say it wasn't worth it

Doug Hook, now a photojournalist living in the US, says he would do it all again: “I’m proud of my time in Afghanistan, it’s awful the losses we had but I’m proud of being in 3 Para and I’m proud of the things I did."

"I’m not going to say it wasn’t worth it and maybe devalue the sacrifices that were made.”

Having lost comrades and friends, it becomes far harder to accept that the war accomplished none of its aims.

Evan Davies admits: “I look back on the time and I think my opinion of it changes almost daily.

"I can say that I miss it and yeah I’d go back and do the same again, but then the next day I can ask the very same question, ‘was it worth it? Did we actually accomplish anything?

"I’d be reluctant to say that it wasn’t worth it, just because of the sacrifices that were made, but personally I think it should have been carried out in a very, very different way."

'We shouldn't have been there': Euan Goodman says they went into the conflict 'ill-prepared'

Euan Goodman, who took the C Company photograph, recalls: “Did we win the majority of the firefights that we were involved in?

"Yes, because we had the firepower, we had the training, we had the equipment, we had the resources. Did we leave feeling like we were the victors?

"I don’t think most soldiers feel we did leave feeling victorious, because there was so little change when you look back on it now, there has been very little change in terms of security.”

He added: “Was it worth it for me as an individual? Then without a shadow of a doubt it made me the person I am today.

"Do I think that the wars we were involved with were wrong or that we shouldn’t have been there?

"Then yeah, we shouldn’t have been there and we haven’t learned a lot from history and we went into conflict ill-prepared to deal with the mess that we were going to create.”

'No, it wasn't worth it': Major Paul Blair reflects on the cost and toll of their service in Afghanistan

Paul Blair, who commanded C Company in 2006 has no doubt: “Looking at the situation now, Helmand in Taliban control, the extent that we smashed up the countryside, blew up bridges, killed no end of insurgents, there was obviously collateral damage, I’m sure some non-combatants despite our best efforts were killed or injured… so no, it wasn’t worth it.” Read more stories from our series Afghanistan: Photo From The Frontline