The final UK service personnel have left Kandahar Airfield in southern Afghanistan after completing the most challenging military redeployment operation for a generation.
Servicemen and women watched as the Union flag was lowered at the airfield, where RAF personnel have operated since 2001, during a ceremony attended by Britain’s Ambassador to Afghanistan, Sir Richard Stagg, the UK National Contingent Commander, Major General Ben Bathurst, and Commander British Forces Afghanistan, Brigadier James Stopford.
Personnel from the RAF’s 904 Expeditionary Air Wing (EAW) boarded a C17 aircraft bound for the UKalongside colleagues from the Joint Force Support Unit which was responsible for supporting military operations in Afghanistan.
The Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said:
"Britain's armed forces can take great pride in the completion of their deployment to Southern Afghanistan. Thanks to their courage and dedication, the country has the best possible chance of a stable future. Our departure from Kandahar airfield therefore is an historic milestone.
Looking to the future, the UK's focus now switches to training the Afghan Army's future officers and providing continuing support to the security ministries in Kabul."
Air Marshal Greg Bagwell, Deputy Commander Operations for the RAF, said:
"I am enormously proud of the service that has been provided across Afghanistan by the RAF and at this time I offer my heartfelt thanks to all of the men and women involved, including those of 904 EAW, who have enabled and supported that effort.
Since Operation Herrick started in 2006, RAF personnel across all trades and specialisations have worked tirelessly to support allied operations in Afghanistan with strategic and tactical Air Transport from the UK to the battlefield, provided air to air refuelling, vital close air support, intelligence and reconnaissance gathering, force protection and a multitude of other roles.”
Major General Ben Bathurst said:
"We have said farewell to British Forces in Helmand and now Kandahar, bringing to a close our combat mission here in Afghanistan. The logistic effort involved has been immense, carried out with the utmost professionalism by Joint Force Support with logisticians from all three Services.
Our focus is now on the future, where those of us who will remain in Kabul will be concentrating on advising and assisting the Afghan National Security Forces at the Ministerial level and at the Afghan National Army Officer Academy".
Just before leaving Kandahar Brigadier Darrell Amison, Comd Joint Force Support (Afghanistan), paid tribute to the sailors, soldiers, airmen, civil servants and contractors who have worked in Afghanistan.
Brigadier Darrell Amison said:
“The transfer of Camp Bastion to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan; the support provided to the transfer of full security responsibility to 215 Corps of the Afghan National Army; and the redeployment of vehicles, materiel and personnel from Helmand and Kandahar to the UK has been planned and executed in a safe, secure and responsible manner that has delivered value for money for Defence, and most importantly, has improved the capability of the Afghan National Security Forces.”
Lieutenant Colonel Rachel Parr, who oversaw much of the redeployment logistic work, said:
“Logistic challenges don’t come much bigger or more complex, and the redeployment from Operation Herrick has been two years in the planning and execution by a host of people and organisations; military, civil service and contractors, here, back in the UK and in Germany. To be on the last deployment at the Theatre end of all this work, which represents the efforts of so many people, has been an immense privilege.”