A senior Northern Ireland-born soldier who knew the Craigavon-born Gurkha killed in Afghanistan last week, says withdrawal from the country is dependent on the needs of its citizens, not the Army.
Captain Doug Beattie from the Royal Irish Regiment won the Military Cross during his second Afghan tour and returns for a third next month.
He has lost several regimental colleagues in the conflict including Jonathan Mathews and Barry Dempsey in 2008.
Gurkha Lieutenant Neal Turkington was one of three men killed by a rogue Afghan soldier last week. As Prime Minister David Cameron promised a solid timeline for British soldiers to come home, Captain Beattie wrote in The Times that the withdrawal should not be a knee-jerk reaction to British deaths.
“Things are far from perfect; the shocking murder last week of three soldiers — among them Neal Turkington, a man who I knew and who came from my home town of Portadown — by a rogue Afghan underlined that,” he said.
“It is not down to me, or my colleagues, to set foreign policy.
“(My) view is that we have a responsibility to the people of Afghanistan and that the timetable for extraction should be based on their needs, not ours.
“For me, I couldn’t care whether the withdrawal comes in 2011 or 2021. The important think is that it is done at the right time.”
He said that while troops may “bitch and moan, as is a soldier’s way”, they will “do their duty and bear their losses”.
Meanwhile, the families of four British servicemen killed in Afghanistan wept side by side yesterday as their loved ones' bodies were returned to British soil.
Hearses carrying the Union flag-draped coffins of Staff Sergeant Brett Linley (29), of 11 |Explosive Ordnance Disposal Regiment, and Sergeant David Monkhouse, a 35-year-old member of the Royal Dragoon Guards, passed through Wootton Bassett after being repatriated to nearby RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire.
They were followed by Senior Aircraftman Kinikki Griffiths (20), of 1 Squadron RAF Regiment, and Marine Jonathan Crookes (26), of 40 Commando Royal Marines.
Hundreds of mourners — soldiers, shopkeepers and well-wishers — lined the high street to pay their respects to the fallen men.
Family members placed flowers on top of the hearses as they paused for a minute's silence next to the town's war memorial — which was covered with more floral tributes.
The silence was broken only by the sound of relatives weeping and the bells of St Bartholomew and All Saints Church.