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British Army to withdraw from NATO mission as UK support moves to new phase in Afghanistan

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.

The Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressed the House of Commons today, stating that the UK military will support the international community’s presence in Kabul, the UK diplomatic mission and the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) through mentoring Afghan forces.

The announcement brings a close to two decades of unswerving support by UK armed forces in Afghanistan. Britain’s withdrawal falls in line with the US commitment to bring its own forces home before the 20th anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks. 

The withdrawal of troops from the NATO mission in Afghanistan marks a significant milestone in UK efforts to help bring peace and stability to the Afghanistan people. That commitment by UK armed forces and our withdrawal was officially marked by a poignant flag-lowering ceremony in Kabul to reflect on the work done throughout deployments in Afghanistan and remember the 457 British lives lost fighting in the pursuit of freedom. 

The British Army has served in Afghanistan since 2001 and in that time more than 100,000 soldiers have been deployed on operations including Veritas, Fingal, Tarrock, Herrick and Toral, alongside our international partners.  The UK has played a leading role throughout including forming and commanding the first International Stabilisation and Assistance Force (ISAF) with Headquarters HQ 3(UK) Division in November 2001. 

The Taliban gave safe haven to Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, which allowed terrorists to plan and carry out attacks all around the world. We joined many other nations in a NATO/ISAF-led military intervention – supported by a UN Security Council Resolution - to prevent the country once again becoming a haven for international terrorists.  
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. 

British deployments were mostly focused in Helmand where Camp Bastion housed troops from all over the world, but also stretched as far as Kandahar, Mazar-i-Sharif and the Afghan capital Kabul. Many of our soldiers and veterans will remember their time in Nad-e-Ali, Lashkar Gar, Nar-e-Saraj, Sangin, and Gereshk. 

The men and women who have served as part of Op Toral should be immensely proud. They have trained thousands of Afghan troops, helped prevent international terrorism and created the conditions for the Afghan Security Forces to succeed." Brigadier Oliver Brown, Outgoing Commander of Op Toral

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.  It has also enabled UK troop numbers - along with those of our international partners - to reduce, and combat operations to decrease.  

The most recent operation – Op Toral - saw British troops stationed in Kabul where they took the lead within the Kabul Security Force. This force, made up of troops from seven different nations, provided vital force protection for UK and coalition advisors who worked with our Afghan partners to increase capacity across the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces. 

Brigadier Oliver Brown, outgoing Commander of Operation Toral, said:

“The men and women who have served as part of Op Toral should be immensely proud. They have trained thousands of Afghan troops, helped prevent international terrorism and created the conditions for the Afghan Security Forces to succeed. “The logistical effort to draw the Operation to a close quickly and safely has been an excellent demonstration of the Armed Forces’ extraordinary professionalism.”

The UK and international partners have committed significant resources in Afghanistan to help rebuild and stabilise the country. Alongside military activities, the UK has supported a wide range of projects to improve education, healthcare, economic growth and local governance, in Helmand and across the

The UK also provided mentors who worked in a training and advisory role within the Afghan National Army Officers' Academy and Infantry Branch School, as well as with other Afghan institutions, and have trained and graduated over 5,000 Afghan National Army Officers, including 300 female officers. The training of the Afghan National Security Forces has formed a key part in enabling Afghanistan to be prepared for the future. 
As the British Army’s service in Afghanistan draws to a close over the coming months, we must remember the sacrifice made by the 457 British Service personnel who died during operations there. Their bravery and selfless commitment underpins the British Army’s legacy and service in Afghanistan. The words of the Kohima Epitaph are as applicable today as they were during World War One:   
When you go home, tell them of us and say, For your tomorrow, We gave our today