Afghanistan

'First Thing You Heard Was Gunshots': UK Soldiers On Afghanistan Evacuation

Soldiers told Forces News what it was like to be helping evacuate UK nationals and former Afghan staff from Afghanistan.

A member of the Yorkshire Regiment deployed to help evacuate people from Afghanistan has told Forces News he questioned if he would make it back from the country.

Private Jake Howarth, Second Battalion, the Yorkshire Regiment, said he was "nervous" when heading to the Afghan capital Kabul, as he "didn't know what was going to go on at all".

"I wondered what it was going to be like," he said. 

"What am I going to see? Am I going to really come back from this? … Loads of different thoughts going through my head when I was on the flight going to Kabul."

He also said once the troops arrived in Kabul, "the first thing you heard was gunshots, straight away".

"It looked like it wasn't organised at all and when we’re walking through, all you could hear was constant gunshots at that time, so a lot of us, if you looked around at people's faces, we were all quite shocked.

"We didn’t know if it was Taliban or if it was coalition forces firing their rounds off."

Watch: 'Big thing was just showing compassion' - UK soldiers on Afghanistan evacuation.

More than 8,000 former Afghan staff and their family members were among the 15,000-plus people evacuated from Kabul by the UK - with the help of 1,000 British troops and RAF aircraft - since 13 August.

Another soldier deployed to Kabul's airport, Captain David Kellett, Second Battalion, the Yorkshire Regiment, told Forces News the evacuation was "not really" what personnel had trained for.

"It's difficult to train for an environment like that," he said,

"But I think the big thing was just showing compassion.

"It was difficult out there because obviously there are a lot of risks, a lot of upset people, and for us it was mainly about getting hold of these people, giving them basic stuff like shade, giving them food and water.

"We found that once you did that, and you reassured them that they're going to fly away from the airport that night, they calmed down a lot.

"The friendly nature of the soldiers really helped."

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