British Troops In Afghanistan
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Remembering The Afghan War: No One Knew How Bad It Would Get

Our reporter Tim Cooper takes a look back at the conflict in Afghanistan...

British Troops In Afghanistan

Cruise missiles are launched from the USS Battle fleet in the Arabian Sea.

It’s late 2001 and they are the first strikes in a war to rid Afghanistan of its Taliban regime and strike back at Al-Qaeda in the wake of the September the 11th attacks.

From the USS Enterprise, F14 and F18 strike planes loaded with laser guided bombs take off.

On the ground US forces, supported by the UK, quickly capture key cities from the Taliban.

UK Troops In Afghanistan

The UN backs the mission and it comes under NATO command.

But, an insurgency against the International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF) grows and keeps growing.

No one knew how bad it would get.

UK forces arrived in Helmand in 2006, for a minimum of 3 years, but steadily, the security situation deteriorated.

British Troops On Patrol In Afghanistan

Improvised Explosive Devices planted at the roadside entered common place.

The threat of suicide bombers was a constant risk.

The British established a series of compounds, Forward Operating Bases, smaller check-points and patrol bases which Taliban fighters frequently attacked.

British Troops Looking Out Of Base In Afghanistan

The UK’s main base, Camp Bastion would go on to be bigger than Hereford and house thousands.

There was a runway, which eventually brought troops directly in from the UK and allowed Sea King, Merlin and Apache helicopters to operate.

British Merlin Helicopter Lands At Camp Bastion, Afghanistan

Despite the hostilities, UK personnel were determined to try and provide security and reconstruction for the population.

In 2010, UK civilian police teams and military mentors trained the Afghan National Police force, at a centre near Lashkar Gah.

The green zone, the fertile land either side of the Helmand River was the most populace, and therefore, the most dangerous.

Sangin became particularly deadly for UK personnel.

Further up the Helmand river, at Kajaki, Royal Marines even took to the water to patrol in a vain effort to stabilise the area enough for a vital hydro-electric generator to be installed. It never was…

The years passed, the casualties continued to rise, and the military continued to try and reach their goal of bringing safety and security to Afghanistan.

But the end was coming.

British Troops In Afghanistan

The drawdown began in 2013, troop numbers reduced and eventually Camp Bastion was closed.

Had enough been done? Probably not, large areas of Helmand were retaken by the Taliban.

The country remains incredibly dangerous and unstable.

454 British servicemen and women were killed.