Following the terrorist attacks on Washington and New York on 11 September 2001, the United Kingdom identified four main goals in its campaign against international terrorism (known as Operation VERITAS): deny Al Qaida its Afghan base, deny them an alternative base outside Afghanistan, attack Al Qaida internationally, and support other states in their efforts against Al Qaida.
The UK was involved in Afghanistan alongside Coalition forces, led by the US under Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), from the first attacks in October 2001. Royal Navy submarines fired Tomahawk missiles against the Taliban and Al Qaida networks, and RAF aircraft provided reconnaissance and air-to-air refuelling capabilities in support of US strike aircraft. The US flew missions from Diego Garcia, part of the British Indian Ocean Territory.
UK troops were first deployed in November 2001, when Royal Marines from 40 Commando helped to secure the airfield at Bagram. A 1,700 battlegroup based around Royal Marines from 45 Commando, was subsequently deployed as Task Force JACANA. Their role was to deny and destroy terrorist infrastructure and interdict the movement of Al Qaida in eastern Afghanistan. In several major operations, Task Force JACANA destroyed a number of bunkers and caves, and it also provided humanitarian assistance in areas previously dominated by the Taliban and Al Qaida. It withdrew in July 2002.
The Taliban had collapsed by the end of 2001, remnants melting back into the Pushtun populace in southern Afghanistan and the Pakistani tribal areas. It was important, however, to ensure that Afghanistan did not return to ungoverned space within which terrorist training and preparation could flourish. International forces therefore remained in Afghanistan to provide security and stability, to combat residual Taliban and Al Qaida elements, and to support the development of Afghan security forces.
The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which aimed to assist the Afghan Transitional Authority in creating and maintaining a safe and secure environment in Kabul and its surrounding area, was created in December 2001, authorised by United Nations UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1386 and successive resolutions (the latest of which is UNSCR 1776). The UK led negotiations in December 2001 to create the ISAF, and Major-General John McColl led the first mission with contributions from 16 nations. As well as providing the headquarters and much of the supporting forces for ISAF, the UK contributed the brigade headquarters, and an infantry battalion. Our contribution initially peaked at 2,100 troops, later decreasing to around 300 personnel after the transfer of ISAF leadership to Turkey in the summer of 2002.
Since the beginning, an important part of the ISAF and OEF missions in Afghanistan has been to train and build the capacity of the Afghan National Security Forces to enable them to take on more responsibility for security in their own country. In March 2003 we began a highly successful programme to train Junior Non-Commissioned Officers for the Afghan National Army. We have since supplemented this with junior officer training on the Sandhurst model in Kabul, and with Operational Mentoring and Liaison Teams in Helmand.
The UK announced its first Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in the North of Afghanistan, in Mazar-e-Sharif, in May 2003; a second, smaller, UK-led PRT was subsequently established in Meymaneh. They were part of the Coalition until 2004, when ISAF expanded into the North. The PRT in Mazar included staffs from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development, who were brought together with around 100 troops to support development programmes alongside local Afghan authorities. In March 2006 it transferred to Swedish control to enable the UK to move its forces to the South, while the PRT in Meymaneh was handed over to Norway in September 2005.
Stage One of ISAF expansion began late in 2003, following NATO's assumption of ISAF command, with United Nations authorisation given in October (UNSCR 1510). Expansion began in the North, with the Germans leading a PRT in Kunduz. Command of the UK-led PRTs in the North was transferred to ISAF in July 2004. Further PRTs were established in Feyzabad and Baghlan by Germany and the Netherlands. Around this time, the UK also contributed the bulk of the troops needed for a new Quick Reaction Force based in Mazar-e-Sharif, bringing the number of UK troops to around 1000.
In September 2004 we also deployed six Harrier GR7s to Kandahar to support OEF operations. The aircraft were also made available to support the ISAF.
In February 2005, NATO announced that ISAF would be further expanded into the West of Afghanistan. This process, Stage Two, began on 31 May 2005, when ISAF took on command of two Italian-led Provincial Reconstruction Teams in the provinces of Herat and Farah and of a Forward Support Base in Herat, also provided by Italy. Later that year two further ISAF-led PRTs in the West became operational, in Chagcharan, led by Lithuania, and Qal'eh-Now, led by Spain.
The staged NATO ISAF expansion had a positive role in extending the writ of the Kabul government to the provinces, setting the conditions for reconstruction, and in helping the Afghan authorities provide security during the successful Presidential elections in October 2004. These elections were a crucial milestone in the democratic development of the country, and the Parliamentary elections in September 2005 marked the successful culmination of the Bonn Process.
In May 2006 the UK deployed the HQ of the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC) to Kabul for nine months to lead the ISAF, and oversee ISAF expansion into the more challenging South and East of Afghanistan.
Stage Three of ISAF expansion, which came into effect on 31 July 2006, has taken the NATO-led ISAF into Southern Afghanistan. 16 nations are contributing a total of 18,000 forces to the South. The UK, US, Canada and the Netherlands are leading PRTs in Helmand, Zabol, Kandahar and Oruzgan provinces, with Denmark, Estonia, Australia, Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, France, Slovakia, Singapore, Georgia and Romania also contributing forces.
The UK is making a substantial contribution: on 26 January 2006 the then Defence Secretary John Reid announced the deployment of some 3,300 UK military personnel – centred initially around 16 Air Assault Brigade – to Helmand province in the south of the country. These forces have since been supplemented, as announced in July 2006, February 2007 and July 2007, up to their current level of approximately 7,300 across southern Afghanistan.
The UK's deployment to Helmand has seen a large number of small and medium-size operations designed to enhance and expand security in Helmand, enabling our partner Departments and NGOs to bring in development and reconstruction assistance to the local population. This comprehensive approach is also helping to undermine the insurgents’ support from Helmandis who can see tangible improvements in their day-to-day lives thanks to the support of the ISAF and the Government of Afghanistan.
The last stage of ISAF expansion, Stage Four, took place in October 2006 and meant that ISAF forces were operating across all of Afghanistan for the first time. The expansion resulted in some 10,000 Coalition (mainly US) troops being moved under ISAF command, resulting in total ISAF troop numbers rising to 31,000 at the time. There are currently 40 nations contributing around 50,000 forces together to the ISAF.
The cost of UK Military Operations in Afghanistan
The Ministry of Defence identifies the costs of military operations in terms of the net additional costs it has incurred, over and above planned expenditure on defence. The costs of our operations in Afghanistan come from the Treasury Special Reserve.
The overall cost of operations in Afghanistan in 2001-2002 was £221m.
The cost for 2002-2003 was £311m.
The cost for 2003-2004 was £46m.
The cost for 2004-2005 was £67m.
The cost for 2005-2006 was £199m.
The cost for 2006-2007 was approx £738m.
We do not report future year costs as operations are by their nature changeable.