This year I went to Pulborough to mark Remembrance Sunday.  The service had a special poignancy after the death of Lance Corporal James Brynin, killed in Afghanistan last month, whose family live in the village.

It was a particular privilege to meet James' mother, Sharon.  She and her family have shown amazing fortitude since their son's tragic death.  She told me about the charity football match in Worthing that's been organised in James' memory and in aid of Hounds for Heroes.  You can donate in his memory at

The conflict in Afghanistan has been controversial.  It has now lasted longer than the First and Second World Wars combined, cost 445 British lives and those of a further 2,944 personnel from our NATO allies, 2,287 of them Americans.

This is a heavy price.  But I was struck by the words of General Sir Nicholas Houghton, the Chief of the Defence Staff, who spoke about this on Sunday.  He said: "We have left or will be leaving Afghanistan with the chance of fledgling democracy, some prospect of some prosperity, with the ability of the Afghan National Security Forces to provide security."

He also pointed out that not a single terrorist attack against the Western world has been launched from Afghanistan in over ten years.

Now our withdrawal has begun.  There will be gradually fewer British troops in Afghanistan until, by December next year, there will be only a few hundred left.  As we prepare to leave, the country will hold its third presidential elections since democracy was established nearly a decade ago.

I will never forget when, as a Home Office minister, I met Afghanistan's Interior Minister.  He grasped my hand and repeatedly thanked me for what Britain was doing in his country, in particular helping to train their security forces.

But of course it wasn't me who deserved thanks.  It was - and is - our brave servicemen who have gone to that troubled country to do their duty, knowing the great risks involved.

Some, like James Brynin, volunteered for a second tour.  Some, like him, paid the ultimate price.  They were, quite literally, heroes.

Our troops can leave Afghanistan with their heads held high having done great good.  Their service and sacrifice has been truly humbling.  They have given us a new reason to say each year "We will remember them."

Christopher N Howarth