Page last updated at 15:19 GMT, Thursday, 28 January 2010

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai lauds UK soldiers

Hamid Karzai and L/Cpl David Timmins
Hamid Karzai spoke to L/Cpl David Timmins about his injuries

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has told the mothers of British soldiers killed in service in Afghanistan that he was "honoured" and "humbled" to meet them.

Mr Karzai paid his tribute during a visit to Wellington Barracks in central London, where he also met veterans injured during the Afghan campaign.

He thanked the relatives and the survivors for their sacrifices and said Afghan mothers felt the same pain.

Mr Karzai is in the UK to take part in a summit on the future of Afghanistan.

He had specifically asked to meet the soldiers and their families, and was accompanied to the barracks by Chief of the General Staff Gen Sir David Richards.

'Honoured'

Mr Karzai said the suffering of the mothers of those killed or injured during the campaign was "an enormous weight on the people of Afghanistan".

He added: "They suffer with her, they understand. There are mothers in Afghanistan who have gone through the same experience and the same pain."

He said he felt "honoured" by his visit.

"I wish I could find the words that my heart would like to speak out here to those mothers.

They are the very brave people who the rest of us are totally dependent on
Gen Sir David Richards

"And right now I would simplify it by telling them, those mothers and families, that we understand their suffering and pain, that there are millions of mothers in Afghanistan who feel exactly the same way," he said.

He commended Britain for having been "at the forefront of the struggle against terrorism and the rebuilding and stability of Afghanistan" before paying further tribute to those who were killed there.

He said they "have sacrificed their life in order to defeat our common foe, terrorists, extremists, radicals, and in order to build Afghanistan into a more secure, more stable country for the people of Afghanistan and by extension for the rest of the world".

He declared a desire for Britain and a "prosperous" and "peaceful" Afghanistan to one day have a close relationship and added: "I hope that we will have occasions where we have visits to Afghanistan for tourism and for vacation and to enjoy it."

Mr Karzai met members of all Britain's armed forces, including 29-year-old L/Cpl David Timmins.

President Hamid Karzai speaks to soldiers who have served in Afghanistan
President Karzai requested the meeting with Afghanistan veterans

A member of 11 EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal), Royal Logistic Corps, L/Cpl Timmins has served three tours in Afghanistan.

He lost his eye after an improvised explosive device went off.

He also spoke to SAC Greig Phillips, of 27 Squadron RAF Regiment, who lost his right leg below the knee and injured his arm in an explosion in September 2009.

Gen Richards told the president that although morale among the serving personnel was high, improvised explosive devices were a real problem.

He told him: "They are the very brave people who the rest of us are totally dependent on."



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