2 YORKS Foxhound Light Protected Patrol vehicle providing overwatch security for the ANAOA 10 year graduation ceremony 110118 CREDIT Crown Copyright.jpg
Afghanistan

Op Toral: What Is The British Military Mission In Afghanistan?

UK military personnel are drawing down from Afghanistan after 20 years in the country.

2 YORKS Foxhound Light Protected Patrol vehicle providing overwatch security for the ANAOA 10 year graduation ceremony 110118 CREDIT Crown Copyright.jpg

The UK's 20-year mission in Afghanistan is drawing to a close, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirming the majority of UK personnel have now withdrawn from Afghanistan.

US and NATO troops left Bagram, the biggest air base in Afghanistan earlier this month and, on 30 June, the last German and Italian troops left the country. 

A former Chief of the General Staff told Forces News earlier this month the troop withdrawal may lead to a civil war in Afghanistan, while the chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee told Radio 4's Today programme the decision was a "major strategic mistake".

The UK's military role in the country began nearly 20 years ago, in the wake of 9/11.

A total of 150,610 UK personnel have served in Afghanistan since.

For many years, the conflict has dominated front-page news.

Watch: 'We are safer because of everything they did' – Johnson confirms end of Op Toral.

At the height of the Afghan war, NATO had more than 130,000 troops from 50 nations in Afghanistan – the UK had 9,500 personnel there.

More than 450 British personnel have died in the country since the start of operations in 2001.

The UK officially ended its combat role in 2014, but troops have since remained in the country in non-combat capacities, on Operation Toral, as part of NATO's Resolute Support Mission.

So what responsibilities have British personnel had on Op Toral?

'Guardian Angels'

Framed by the high mountains of the Hindu Kush sits Kabul, the Afghan capital.

Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion Yorkshire Regiment or 2 YORKS are currently deployed in Kabul Afghanistan in support of the NATO Resolute Support Mission
Soldiers from 2nd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment with their Foxhound vehicles in Kabul (Picture: MOD).

It was once a key stop on the silk routes of Asia – a place full of gardens, bazaars and grand palaces – but today it is regarded as one of the most dangerous cities in the world.

In the capital, there has been a major NATO effort to try to provide some stability, involving British forces in a leading role. 

Troops have had three main non-combat roles – the first as 'Guardian Angels', which has seen soldiers provide security and protection to NATO advisors and government officials.

British forces have been tasked with transporting and accompanying government officials across the capital and beyond.

Soldiers have driven dignitaries around in the Foxhound armoured vehicle, amid the threat of suicide bombers and improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

Aircraft from the Royal Air Force have also been used to transport officials.

The Taliban, Al-Qaeda and so-called Islamic State (IS) are just some of the threats which have faced British personnel and NATO allies in Kabul.

Watch: In 2018 Forces News got special access to British personnel working in Kabul.

Emergency Response

British soldiers deployed on Op Toral in Afghanistan have also formed part of NATO's Quick Reaction Force, which responds to emergency situations across the capital. 

Troops are held on standby 24/7 and are given five minutes' notice to react to an emergency, whether it is a fire or an attack.

In January 2018, soldiers from 2nd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment were called into action.

They helped evacuate civilians from Kabul's Intercontinental Hotel after an attack by the Taliban.

Twenty-two people were killed during the 13-hour siege, but 2 YORKS, alongside their Afghan, Australian and US counterparts, helped rescue 43 people.

British soldiers react to a call while on Quick Reaction Force, Afghanistan March 2018 CREDIT BFBS
British soldiers react to a call while on Quick Reaction Force.

'Sandhurst In The Sand'

In October 2020, operational control of the Afghan National Army Officer Academy (ANAOA) was handed over from NATO to the Afghan authorities.

It is there where UK military personnel had been helping to train the next generation of Afghan Security Forces soldiers.

Britain helped establish ANAOA in the western outskirts of Kabul in 2013.

Modelled on Sandhurst, and built with £75m of British money, everything on the curriculum had been influenced by UK military training.

ANAOA takes its core principles from the British Army and there are aspirations it will reach the same level of academes in India and Pakistan.

Sandhurst In The Sand Afghanistan March 2018 CREDIT BFBS
Afghan soldiers march on the parade square at 'Sandhurst In The Sand'.

Cover image: A 2 YORKS Foxhound Light Protected Patrol Vehicle provides overwatch security for the ANAOA 10-year graduation ceremony (Picture: Crown Copyright).