In his final blog post from his recent Afghan deployment, Wing Commander Simon Ling tells us the NATO presence is making a difference to the people of Afghanistan.
The Afghans are a very proud people whose lifestyle is almost exclusively driven by their culture. This is a culture that pervades every level of the family structure and has a history that reaches back for hundreds of years. For most, if not all, in Helmand, life is about providing for their family.
In the main this centres around the economics of agriculture. This is a challenge for a country that can boast only 12% of its land mass as arable of which only 4% is irrigated.
A large proportion of the work undertaken by NATO here is assisting the population with initiatives to develop agriculture and also to ensure freedom of manoeuvre in order to facilitate commerce.
Despite this support, I cannot be anything less than amazed at the industrious nature of the Afghan people, a people who have known nothing else but conflict for over 40 years.
I have read numerous reports in the press asking the question if NATO forces have made a difference in the country after ten years of fighting. My six month exposure to this country has allowed me to form an unequivocal view that we have, and will continue to make a significant difference here.
What is also clear in my mind is that the fight in Afghanistan is a hugely complex task in a very challenging region of the world.
The task is far from complete and as such we need to continue to support the continued development of the Afghan National Security Forces if we are to succeed.
Ultimately, the enduring solution to the problems of this country will be led by Afghans and delivered by Afghans.
As for me, as I leave this country I cannot help but feel both proud and honoured to have played my small part in this campaign.
But more importantly I am proud to be part of an organisation that operates with the highest standards of professionalism.
Such professionalism is underpinned by excellent training, excellent equipment, and the support we receive from family, friends and organisations such as the RAF Benevolent Fund.
Ultimately though, our professionalism is delivered by our most valuable of resources, our people. My six months in Afghanistan have afforded me the opportunity to work with some outstanding individuals, to experience at close hand the amazing work, esprit de corps, bravery and sacrifice of our personnel in the execution of their duties.
I may be leaving this country in a matter of hours but the images and memories of my time here will forever remain.
By Simon Ling