British Army REME 44 HQ and Support Squadron, Nahr-e Seraj District, Helmand Province, by Sgt Wes Calder RLC (Crown Copyright, 2012)

Operation TORAL: The British Army in Afghanistan

What is the British Army Still Doing in Afghanistan?

Operation TORAL is the codename for the British Army’s deployment to Afghanistan as part of NATO’s Resolute Support Mission to develop the military capability of the Afghanistan government’s armed forces. The Taliban gave safe haven to Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, which allowed terrorists to plan and carry out attacks around the world. The British Army was part of a multinational NATO/ISAF-led military intervention to bring Al-Qaeda’s leaders to justice, remove the Taliban from control in Afghanistan and prevent the country again becoming a safe haven for international terrorists. This combat mission was codenamed Operation HERRICK.

The international military campaign has reduced the terrorist threat from this region and helped train a 350,000 strong Afghan National Security Force, which now has security responsibility for Afghanistan’s 30 million citizens. The process of handing over security to Afghan forces – ‘transition’ – saw the international military’s role change from leading combat operations to training, advising and assisting.

International actions in Afghanistan since 2001 have significantly reduced the terrorist threat to the UK from this region.

At its peak, in Helmand alone there were 137 UK bases and around 9,500 UK troops. On 9 August 2013, the military headquarters of the UK’s Task Force Helmand moved from Lashkar Gah to Camp Bastion. A small number of soldiers remain today to continue the training and development of the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police. This is Operation TORAL.

Operation HERRICK officially ended on 31 December 2014. Operation TORAL officially began on 1 January 2015, with the deployment of soldiers from The Rifles Regiment. At the time, the Defence Secretary, Sir Michael Fallon, said:

Our Armed Forces’ tremendous sacrifice laid the foundations for a strong Afghan Security Force, set the security context that enabled the first democratic transition of power in the country’s history, and stopped it being a launch pad for terrorist attacks in the UK. Although we are ending a significant chapter in our shared history, the UK’s commitment to support Afghanistan will continue through institutional development, the Afghan National Army Officer Academy, and development aid.

The UK pledged to provide £70 million a year until at least 2017 towards developing the Afghan National Security Forces and has about 500 service personnel on deployment to Afghanistan.

British Army Deployments Since 2014

British Army units deployed to date include elements from:

2nd Battaltion, The Rifles (2 RIFLES): January 2015 – February 2015

7th Battalion, The Rifles (7 RIFLES): January 2015 – February 2015

1st Battalion, Royal Anglian Regiment (1 R ANGLIAN): February 2015 – August 2015

Royal Highland Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland (2 SCOTS): July 2015 – April 2016
Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, 5th Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland (5 SCOTS): July 2015 – April 2016

6th Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland (6 SCOTS): July 2015 – April 2016

133 Field Company, 103 Battalion REME: February 2016

2nd Battalion, The Royal Gurkha Rifles (2 RGR): April 2016 – December 2016

1st Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment (1 R IRISH): December 2016 – July 2017

Before their deployment, Major Dan Moore told the Belfast Telegraph:

What we are going out to do is essentially provide security and force protection for Nato personnel in Kabul, both within Kabul city and also within the Afghan National Army officers academy. This tour will be much more based on support to the Afghan National Defence Security Force, as opposed to us being in the lead – we are very much there at their request and they have the lead on security matters.

2nd Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment (2 YORKS), are due to take over from 1 R IRISH in 2017. According to the British Army website, 2 YORKS is a light mechanised infantry battalion and part of 4th Infantry Brigade and HQ North East, one of the Army’s adaptable brigades. It is equipped with the Foxhound Protected Patrol Vehicle and a range of small arms and support weapons. Foxhound is an agile and versatile vehicle perfectly fitting the battalion’s new role. 2 YORKS is commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Samuel Humphris MBE. They began mission specific training for Op TORAL 5 in March 2017.

RAF Role in Operation TORAL

The Royal Air Force also contributes to Operation TORAL:

January 2015 – March 2015: 3 Boeing Chinook HC.2’s of No. 1310 Flight RAF with 51 personnel.
April 2015 – present: 3 Westland Puma HC.2’s of Puma Force.

No One KIA in TORAL

From 1 December 2014 to 31 March 2017, there were 51 casualties and 2 fatalities, none of which were combat related. The 2 fatalities occurred when a Puma helicopter crashed in Kabul. Flight Lieutenant Alan Scott of 33 Squadron Royal Air Force, and Flight Lieutenant Geraint ‘Roly’ Roberts of 230 Squadron Royal Air Force both died in the crash on Sunday, 11 October 2015. Both officers were members of the Puma helicopter force based at RAF Benson in Oxfordshire.

As the HERRICK combat operation came to an end, Brigadier Darrell Amison, Commander of Joint Force Support, Afghanistan, said:

We don’t know where this country is going to go and I would not like to take a guess. There is hope for the country, whether that is seized is another matter. Time will tell.

Afghanistan Still Not a Tourist Destination

With Islamic extremists, the Taliban and ISIS-K, gaining ground in the country, the British Foreign Office still advises against travelling in most of Afghanistan today:

There is a high threat from terrorism and specific methods of attack are evolving and increasing in sophistication. There is a high threat of kidnapping throughout the country. Travel by road throughout the country, but particularly outside the capital Kabul, is extremely dangerous. Seek professional security advice for all travel and consider using armoured vehicles.

Another War in Afghanistan?

Despite all the enthusiasm for the Afghan National Army during the NATO drawdown, they are clearly not up to the job. Lack of discipline, poor leadership and widespread corruption have neutered the effectiveness of Afghanistan’s own forces. Now, NATO, the US and the UK are all considering sending more troops, ostensibly still to train and advise, but recent US actions against ISIS-K in Afghanistan demonstrate that, once again, this is turning into a combat scenario.

Serious questions must now be raised concerning current military strategy. In World War II, the Allies defeated Nazi Germany – a far superior military power than the Taliban – in six years and one day; after 13 years of war in Afghanistan and another 2½ years of advise and assist, the Taliban are still there and still a force to be reckoned with.

Sources: British Army; MOD; Daily Mail; Belfast Telegraph.

Photo: Pictured are Afghans watching Royal Engineers from 44 (Four Four) HQ and Support Squadron installing a General Support Bridge (GSB) in the northern part of Nahr-e Seraj District of Helmand Province. To launch a bridge the Royal Engineers use the Automated Bridge Launching Equipment BR-90 (ABLE) that is capable of launching bridges up to 44 m in length. The ABLE vehicle is positioned with its rear pointing to the gap to be crossed and a lightweight launch rail extended across the gap. The bridge is then assembled and winched across the gap supported by the rail, with sections added until the gap is crossed. Once the bridge has crossed the gap the ABLE launch rail is recovered. A 32 m bridge can be built by 10 men in about 40 minutes.

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