Plaid Cymru AM Lindsay Whittle spoke about his experiences of visiting Afghanistan four years ago during a Conservative debate at the Senedd on Armed Forces personnel and veterans.
Lindsay Whittle, who represents South Wales East, said: “I did not fly in in the morning and fly out at night, as many politicians do when they go to these places to support out troops. I spent five days there visiting Camp Souter, the International Security Assistance Force camp, Camp Bastion, Kabul and Kandahar. I visited those areas and flew during the visits at night, because of the dangers to the visiting party that I was with. I can tell you, in parts, it was quite hair-raising.
“Lots of my friends and family were very concerned indeed about my personal safety and were worried. I was there for five days. What do the families of some of our troops who are there for six months at a time feel?
“My family say that they dreaded the telephone ringing—for a mere five days. These families of our young people are in that situation for six months at a time. They must be going through a living hell. It was an honour and a privilege to have spoken to about 30 different Welsh troops from all parts of Wales, as well as to troops from other parts of Britain.”
Mr Whittle, who made the 2009 trip to Afghanistan as part of a visit by Local Government Association, said that he was very glad to see the Welsh Government was taking action to reduce waiting times in some parts of Wales for some of our veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
He said: “I do not think it is all about the Welsh NHS picking up the financial tab here. I believe that the Ministry of Defence has a duty of care too. When we left Afghanistan, I was in a hangar with about 500 or 600 troops and the five or six visitors from Wales and other countries in the United Kingdom, and we were made to watch a 15-minute video on post-traumatic stress disorder—a 15-minute video. Well, it should be a little bit more than that.
“I do not think that there is an excuse for ex-service personnel to have to wait up to half a year to get more access to help and treatment in certain health board areas, and I want to see an end to the postcode lottery in Wales.”
After the meeting, Mr Whittle stressed Plaid Cymru’s position on sending troops abroad.
He said: “We in Plaid Cymru would want to see most of all is not to put young men and women from Wales in war zones where successive UK governments have no right and no mandate to intervene.
“Exposing young people to the threat of experiencing PTSD – if they actually survive – is not something that we in this party would ever support.”