Twenty years on

Operation Herrick/Toral

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?

19bfc0a29eb7ec847cdb8eed4b7be3fa-5a511d6cf1fd95.71966863151526538899129101.png Kabul - Capital of Afghanistan Camp Bastion - Main Operating Base Lashkar Gah - Capital of Helmand Province Sangin - Location of fierce fighting Kajaki - Site of Hydroelectric Dam Project

Key Locations

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.

Afghanistan a timeline


The UK Legacy of Operations in Afghanistan

Why we were there

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 Advancement

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.

Infrastructure Improvements

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