As the UK’s Global Response Force, troops from 16 Air Assault Brigade have deployed to Afghanistan to enable the safe evacuation of British people and Afghans who have worked alongside them and been given the right to settle in the UK.
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 operation and provide planning, logistic, and medical support, is being bolstered with further personnel as needed.
The mission - known as Operation Pitting - was launched amid the rapidly deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, which meant the safety of British people in the country could no longer be assured. At the same time the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy (ARAP) has been accelerated, to help interpreters and other Afghan staff who risked their lives working alongside British forces, relocate to the UK.
The NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan, which includes the UK, agreed that military contingents would withdraw from Afghanistan by September 2021. The UK has played a central role in NATO operations in Afghanistan since 2001; the threat from Al Qaeda was reduced, and the international community was preserved from any form of terrorist attack being launched from Afghanistan for 20 years. Great sacrifices were made to achieve this.
As part of the NATO departure, the Prime Minister confirmed on 8 July that the UK had withdrawn the majority of British military personnel from the country. Some troops remained to offer assurance to the international community in Kabul.
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.