British Armed Forces mark 20th anniversary of UK operations in Afghanistan

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Photographer: PO PHOT Dave Jenkins - UK MOD © Crown copyright 2021

Armed Forces Minister James Heappey joined Armed Forces personnel to lay wreaths in memory of the 457 British service personnel who died during UK military operations in Afghanistan, on the 20th anniversary of the start of US-led coalition airstrikes.

The wreaths were laid in two ceremonies at the Bastion Memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, and at the Iraq and Afghanistan Memorial in London.

The ceremonies honoured the courage and commitment shown by Armed Forces personnel during the 20 years of conflict in Afghanistan. They recognised the sacrifice of all those who served and continue to support the Afghan people following the withdrawal of NATO troops earlier this year.

 Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said:

“Today we remember the sacrifice and courage of the 457 service personnel who lost their lives during the 20 years of UK operations in Afghanistan.

“We remember their bravery in conflict and their dedication to the cause of peace and democracy. Their selfless sacrifice transformed Afghanistan and showed the UK’s solemn commitment to standing with our NATO allies.”

Armed Forces Minister James Heappey joined Armed Forces personnel to lay wreaths in memory of the 457 British service personnel who died during UK military operations in Afghanistan, on the 20th anniversary of the start of US-led coalition airstrikes. Photo: Sgt Jimmy Wise – UK MOD © Crown copyright 2021

Armed Forces Minister James Heappey, who laid a wreath at the Bastion Memorial today, said:

“Having served on two tours of Afghanistan myself, I was proud to lay a wreath at the Bastion Memorial in memory of those who tragically did not return home.

“Our Armed Forces overcame unimaginable challenges in support of the people of Afghanistan and to defend the UK and its allies. We must continue to honour the legacy of the generations of service personnel who served in Afghanistan.”

Service personnel who served in Afghanistan and wear the Afghanistan Operational Service Medal attended the ceremonies to pay respect to their fallen comrades. Over 20 years, 150,000 Armed Forces personnel served on operations in Afghanistan.

In 2001 the UK Armed Forces joined a NATO operation that sought to uphold human rights and ensure that Afghanistan could no longer be used as a safe base of operations for international terrorists. The operation was part of an allied response to the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001.

More recently, the UK Armed Forces contributed to the training of Afghan National Army officers and soldiers – many of whom studied at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in the UK.

During the military withdrawal this summer, the UK Armed Forces continued to support the people of Afghanistan, successfully airlifting 15,000 vulnerable people out of Kabul and welcoming them to the UK.

The Armed Forces continue to support vulnerable Afghans who were evacuated to the UK, with medical support, education, training, and housing.

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