On 11 September 2001 nearly 3,000 people were killed in coordinated terrorist attacks against the United States (US); 67 were British. 9/11, as it became known, was the work of Al-Qaeda terrorists, led by Osama bin Laden. At that time they enjoyed the freedom and security of bases in Afghanistan, under the protection of the Taliban regime.
The UK government stood alongside international partners in our condemnation of Al-Qaeda’s actions. When the Taliban refused to hand over Osama bin Laden, we joined the US and many other nations to bring Al-Qaeda’s leaders to justice, remove the Taliban from control in Afghanistan and prevent the country again becoming a safe haven for international terrorists.
Below we look at what we achieved in the 20 year long deployment
Where were we deployed?
The British Army deployed initially to Kabul, extending to Helmand Province to counter the insurgency in the Green Zone before concluding in educating at the Afghan National Officer Academy back in Kabul. Below we look to highlight the all that we have achieved in the 20 year operation.
The UK Legacy of Operations in Afghanistan
The international military campaign has reduced the terrorist threat from this region and helped train a 350,000 strong Afghan National Security Force, which now has security responsibility for Afghanistan’s 30 million citizens.
The process of handing over security to Afghan forces – ‘transition’ – saw the international military’s role change from leading combat operations to training, advising and assisting and subsequently withdrawing. This has marked a significant milestone for Afghanistan and its people.
Medical advances in Afghanistan bring more soldiers home from operations
During 20 years of operation in Afghanistan, battlefield medicine and treatment have advanced in ways which would have been thought impossible in peacetime. Requirements for new or more sophisticated equipment were fulfilled within days. Doctors and medics on the ground were changing how they treated people within hours, based on their experiences.
In such a fast-paced environment, these changes and continuous improvements made a difference instantly – saving lives and improving the outcomes for those wounded in action.
Many of the medical advances made in Afghanistan have gone on to help civilian patients, including in the NHS.
24 Feb 02 - Restoration of the gravestones of British troops who died in Afghanistan in the nineteenth century
21 Mar 02 - Bridge rebuilt on a key road between Kabul and Bagram,
14 Mar 02 - The Indira Gandhi children's hospital in Kabul received its first batch of new beds, bedding toys and other gifts.
17 Mar 08 - Medical centre built in Kabul, which provided medical care to more than 200 locals in the first day alone.
1 Dec 08 - An orphanage, a nursery and a women's centre all opened in Lashkar Gah
29 June 09 - Construction and refurbishment of nine health clinics, twelve schools, six mosques and twelve roads.
21 Sept 09 - Construction of four-wing prison and a headquarters for the Counter Narcotics Police.
16 Nov 09 - Bridge built in Nad 'Ali to improve the economic prosperity of the area.
14 May 10 - Village of Gorup-e Shesh Kalay near Nad 'Ali rebuilt
23 Sept 10 - A new school opened in Spina Kota near Lashkar Gah.
6 Dec 10 - Refurbishment of a derelict school facilitating first lessons in 3 years
8 Feb 11 - New road built in Helmand province
23 March 11 - A new crossing built, fording one of southern Helmand's largest waterways
19 Jul 12 - 843 artefacts returned from the British Museum to the Afghan capital, Kabul, 20 years after they were stolen and smuggled abroad
24 Jan 13 - Bridge built over the Nahr-e Saraj canal in Helmand province.
International actions in Afghanistan since 2001 significantly reduced the terrorist threat to the UK from this region. But no one could doubt the high price paid, particularly in Helmand, where UK troops were based between 2006-14 . We are proud of the dedication and courage of our Armed Forces and we owe particular tribute to the service personnel who have been killed in Afghanistan and many more who have suffered life-changing injuries. They will have our long term respect, support and assistance.
The UK Legacy in Numbers
As Operation TORAL draws to an end, the UK Armed Forces are transitioning to a new phase in support of Afghanistan, which will see a number of UK military personnel remain in Afghanistan.
In one of the last-ever interviews with a senior officer serving in Afghanistan, Lieutenant Colonel Graham Sefton, Commanding Officer of The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland (3 SCOTS), reflects on the final operational tour under the NATO Resolute Support mission.
The Defence Recovery Capability was first created in response to the high number of returning casualties from operations TELIC and HERRICK in Iraq and Afghanistan. Medical advances meant that more complex cases, with previously non-survivable injuries, were returning home and requiring care.