MORE than 4,000 troops from 20 Armoured Brigade and 102 Logistic Brigade have completed their mission rehearsal exercise, Pashtun Dawn, on Salisbury Plain as they prepare to deploy to Afghanistan.
Leaving in the next few days, they will be the last British combat troops in the country.
The Germany-based soldiers will conduct a phased withdrawal from June until December when, under current planning, the only British troops to remain in Afghanistan will be those who are training Afghanistan officer cadets at what has been called ‘Sandhurst in the Sand.’ On the day that the five casualties from the Lynx crash were repatriated through Brize Norton, Mark Francois MP, Minister of State for the Armed Forces, joined the soldiers at Copehill Down. He described this deployment as “hugely important and historic” and as “drawing the curtain on our 13 years in Afghanistan”.
“Like their predecessors, 20th Armoured Brigade will face their own unique challenges, but I know you have the skills and training to do your duty and I know you will make us proud.
Good luck and Godspeed,” he said.
20 Brigade is commanded by Brigadier James Swift, who commanded 2 Royal Welsh in Tidworth from February 2007 to July 2009 and has been responsible for preparing the force for deployment.
But he and most of his headquarters will not deploy, with the troops coming under the command of US-led Regional Command (south west) commanded by a United States Marine Corps brigadier general a with a British brigadier as his deputy.
The brigade will have 2,200 combat troops, a UK Manoeuvre Battle Group (UK Mvr BG) based on 5 Rifles with additional soldiers including a company of 4 SCOTS, artillery and engineers and a Brigade Advisory Team based on the Queen’s Dragoon Guards.
In parallel there will be 1,800 logisticians based on Gutsersloh’s 102 Logistic Brigade commanded by Brig Daryl Amison - their role will be to support the UK Mvr BG while preparing for the return of stores and equipment to the UK.
Brig Swift emphasised that in the final weeks, the force would be on ‘expeditionary force’ levels of comfort as both men and equipment were withdrawn, but force safety and wellbeing will be the first priority.
Brigadier Amison said that 60 per cent of the stores had been returned to UK - some 2,000 vehicles and pieces of equipment.
He said that the unconfirmed cost of the redeployment operation would be between £300m and £350m.
He added that every item was looked at to see if it was cost effective to backload it, some items will be gifted to the Afghan Security Forces, some will be auctioned off and some will be destroyed in situ, all with the agreement of the MoD and under the watchful eye of the National Audit Office.
The minister toured the very small display of equipment that was on show and talked to the soldiers before departing.