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

Op Toral: What Have British Troops Done In Afghanistan?

UK military personnel are to draw down from Afghanistan, but what work have they done there over the last 20 years?

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

The United States recently announced plans to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan by 11 September, to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks on New York and Washington.

The UK, meanwhile, has confirmed it will be part of a "drawdown", while NATO has set a target of 1 May for personnel to begin leaving Afghanistan.

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.

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.

Although the UK officially ended its combat role, under Operation Herrick, on 26 October 2014, troops have been in the country in non-combat capacities, known as Operation 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, however 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. 

About 750 UK troops are deployed to Afghanistan as part of Operation Toral – Britain's contribution to the NATO Resolute Support mission.

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 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.

UK military personnel had been helping train the next generation of Afghan Security Forces soldiers.

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

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.

The long-term plan is for a gradual drawdown of NATO mentors by 2026.

It is hoped that what they leave behind is a first-class training academy, able to produce leaders in the Afghan Army.

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

What Next?

Despite the drawdown, the Government says the UK and its allies "reserve the right" to launch new military action in Afghanistan should international terrorism thrive.

Defence minister James Heappey has suggested a review will be carried out into Britain's military involvement in the country.

The Defence Secretary has warned that any attacks on allied troops in Afghanistan will be "met with a forceful response".

Ben Wallace said the security of UK personnel still in the country "remains our priority" as he announced the "drawdown".

In a statement made after the confirmed withdrawal of NATO forces from 1 May, Mr Wallace said: "The people of Afghanistan deserve a peaceful and stable future.

"As we draw down, the security of our people currently serving in Afghanistan remains our priority and we have been clear that attacks on allied troops will be met with a forceful response.

"The British public and our Armed Forces community, both serving and veterans, will have lasting memories of our time in Afghanistan.

US 48th Infantry Combat Team in Kapisa Province Afghanistan 160219 CREDIT US DEPT OF DEFENSE
US troops in Afghanistan (Picture: US Department of Defense).

"Most importantly, we must remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice, who will never be forgotten."

The US Secretary of State made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan following President Joe Biden's decision to withdraw all American troops from the country.

Anthony Blinken sought to assure senior Afghan politicians that the US remains committed to the country despite the announcement that the 2,500 US troops will leave by 11 September.

"I wanted to demonstrate with my visit the ongoing commitment of the United States to the Islamic Republic and the people of Afghanistan," Mr Blinken told Afghan President Ashraf Ghani as they met at the presidential palace in Kabul.

"The partnership is changing, but the partnership itself is enduring."

The Afghan President told Mr Blinken they "respect the decision" and are "adjusting" the country's priorities.

The US Secretary of State also met the head of the National Reconciliation Council and repeated his message, saying that "we have a new chapter, but it is a new chapter that we're writing together."

Abdullah Abdullah said: "We are grateful to your people, your country, your administration."

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