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The first woman soldier to kill in combat says leaving Afghanistan was a betrayal of our troops

Mirror logo Mirror 27/03/2017 Emily Retter

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Army medic Chantelle Taylor doesn’t regret becoming the first female soldier to kill in combat – but she feels her efforts on the battlefield are being betrayed.

The impact of taking a life at close range in an Afghanistan ambush nine years ago, is in danger of being undermined as the Taliban take back areas she and her comrades fought over.

“We should never have left,” she said. “You can’t rehabilitate a place without securing it. We were taking ground and losing guys to take it and to hold it, for it to then be given back.”

Sangin, in Helmand, where 104 British troops died – almost a quarter of Britain’s overall casualties – is the latest to fall, following the withdrawal of most Western forces in 2014.

“I’m very, very angry and I’m now waiting to see them send troops back in. I get angry at the bloodshed. And I’m angry at the stupidity. People are home, injured, families have lost loved ones. The ripple effect angers me.”

It is crushing to many troops back home, she added: “All over the news it says we failed in Afghanistan, what psychologically does that do to someone?

“Soldiers didn’t fail in Afghanistan, the government at the time failed by making decisions that would be more popular for them, over finishing the job. Soldiers will bear that burden.”

The Londoner joined the Army, aged 22, in 1998. Her first tours were in Kosovo, Sierra Leone and Iraq.

From 2006, she was based at a Camp Bastion hospital in Helmand, with the Royal Army Medical Corps. They were deluged with casualties.

It was during her second tour, in 2008, that she began going on patrol. In a convoy near the village of Marjah she came up against Taliban fighters at close quarters for the first time in an ambush. There were 20 of them.

She ducked and when she popped up, she immediately got “eyes on” a fighter, and fired until he was dead. She said: “I didn’t run around thinking it was cool. But it was something that had to happen – given the choice between him and me.

“At the end of the day, to prevent a casualty you may have to kill, that is the first step of battlefield medicine.

“As basic as it sounds he is not a human being he is a threat.”

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The fighting lasted around two hours. Only one of their men was injured. Thankfully, Chantelle was able to rationalise her decision.

She said: “The crux of it is I’m alive and so were the people in my vehicle.”

Chantelle fights her anger over troop withdrawals by channelling her frustration into charity work.

She finds it very rewarding – alongside her work in security – assisting vulnerable women in conflict zones.

But you sense it is just that, a fight.

Credits: John Moore/Getty Images © Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc Credits: John Moore/Getty Images

“I refuse to be a victim, a casualty of what the government gets us doing,” she said.

“It is always worth it for the people who are there. I don’t say it naively, but I have that respect for people I served alongside who fell.”

Chantelle’s story is told at the National Army Museum in Chelsea, London, which reopens on Thursday after a £23.75million redevelopment.

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