Airborne soldiers praised for Afghanistan evacuation

The British Army’s airborne forces have been praised for their “enormous humanity and empathy” in Afghanistan, both by evacuees and a Government minister.

Troops from Colchester-based 16 Air Assault Brigade deployed to Afghanistan last weekend on Operation PITTING to enable the safe evacuation of British people and Afghans.

In sending out 16 Air Assault Brigade, who are the Army's elite, very high readiness Global Response Force, we've sent the troops that are best equipped, best trained, best able to deal with a very, very dynamic situation. Minister for the Armed Forces James Heappey MP

Speaking to the BBC, Minister for the Armed Forces James Heappey said: “In sending out 16 Air Assault Brigade, who are the Army's elite, very high readiness Global Response Force, we've sent the troops that are best equipped, best trained, best able to deal with a very, very dynamic situation. That (situation) goes from quite acute threat, all the way through to requiring enormous humanity and empathy to deal with the real-life human stories that they're being confronted with every second of every day.”

16 Air Assault Brigade is held at very high readiness for missions such as this. The soldiers are working at Kabul airport alongside Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office staff to make the process as swift and secure as possible for evacuees. An initial deployment of 600 troops to both protect the mission and provide planning, logistic, and medical support, is being bolstered with further personnel as needed.

One of the passengers on the first flight out of the city was Din Mohammad, who grew up in Leeds but moved to Kabul with his family in 2019. He had previously worked as a role player to help train soldiers preparing for operations in Afghanistan.

“I’m happy,” he said. “I know when we came out of the vehicle (to the airport) I said thank you, and they said ‘No sir, thank you.”

The ongoing evacuation of British civilian and military personnel marks a new phase in our relationship with Afghanistan. But, as the Prime Minister said in July, the UK is not under any illusions about the perils of the situation and of what may lie ahead. The UK’s commitment towards the future of Afghanistan and her people remains through diplomatic, development and counter-terrorist tools.