UK

Afghanistan, coronavirus and the Carrier Strike Group: 2021 in review

2021 has seen the military take on a number of challenges few could have predicted at the start of the year.

2021 has been an extraordinary year for the Armed Forces.

From the Carrier Strike Group 21 (CSG21) deployment to battling the coronavirus pandemic, the UK's Armed Forces have had to deal with a lot.

This year has had it all – in ways few could have predicted at the start.

For the Royal Navy, 2021 was focused on the success of the Carrier Strike Group.

HMS Queen Elizabeth, the Navy's flagship, was deployed for the first time on the Carrier Strike Group 21 (CSG21) deployment.

Watch: HMS Queen Elizabeth completes CSG21.

Heading to the Indo-Pacific as a nine-ship multinational task force, the Strike Group carried 3,700 sailors, marines and aviators around the world.

This year also saw Western forces leave Afghanistan – a decision led by the US, despite opposition from NATO partners, such as the UK.

Rapidly, the Afghan security infrastructure collapsed and the Taliban was in Kabul, the country's capital, in a blink of an eye.

This led to a mass evacuation of UK nationals and former staff under Operation Pitting which was viewed as an operational success.

Watch: Afghanistan – personnel deployed on Operation Pitting reflect on Kabul evacuation.

However, for some of the hundreds of thousands of Armed Forces personnel who had served in the country, it marked the ultimate failure of the mission and led to many veterans questioning their service.

Domestically, the military played a pivotal role in the UK's fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and continues to assist.

Old threats have also resurfaced, with Russia aggressively posturing along the border with Ukraine and growing fears over the cyber threat from countries like China.

This year saw the military carry on with its day-to-day business, but step up in a number of unforeseen ways.

For the UK Armed Forces, 2022 looks deeply uncertain on many fronts, from COVID-19 to Russia, and will pose a whole set of new challenges as the military continues to evolve.