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Final Afghan deployment are prepared

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: May 08, 2014

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Thousands of soldiers who will make up the final ever deployment to Afghanistan have been put through their paces on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire – but are training for a very different kind of mission than those who have gone before.

The soldiers from the 20th Armoured Brigade, made up from many different regiments and battalions, including some based in the West, will spend the final six months of 2014 in Afghanistan, and be the last 'boots on the ground' in the war-torn country.

British forces are withdrawing almost entirely from Afghanistan by the end of this year, and the 20th and final 'Operation Herrick' will be something of a logistical challenge to pack up and go home.

The brigade will strip Camp Bastion of every valuable piece of military equipment and fly it home by the end of the year, while at the same time continuing to advise and support the Afghan National Army and police force as they try to exert their authority over insurgents, rebels and the Taliban.

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At an exercise at the mock village called Copehill Down, on Salisbury Plain, soldiers from 5 Rifles were joined by amputee actors to make a medical exercise as realistic as possible.

Other soldiers practised the art of dismantling equipment, watchtowers and military hardware, under the watchful eye of defence minister Mark Francois.

Brigadier James Swift, the mission commander, said this final six-month stint in Afghanistan would be different.

"The soldiers and officers of Herrick 20 are at the peak of their training and are ready to deploy," he said.

"They will join a highly professional and integrated force. Together their force levels will reduce as conditions permit and the ANSF will continue to lead security operations and so we will remain close to them there.

Conditions will become increasing expeditionary but of course force protection will remain our highest priority," he added.

An army spokesman said that thanks to the "hard work by service personnel over the past decade and more, Afghanistan now has responsibility for security across the country as they lead on 97 per cent of operations and carrying out 90 per cent of their own training".

It is a sign of the times that the mission commanders will be based here in the West – and not in Afghanistan – with soldiers on the ground in Camp Bastion coming under American control.

Herrick 20 will include a major contingent of Welsh troops, including Lance Corporal Chris Dallimore, from Maelor.

He worked with a bomb disposal squad on a previous tour three years ago, but is not sure what Herrick 20 will bring.

"It could be quiet or it could be busy," the 22-year-old said. "The important thing is training has prepared us, " he added.

His commanding officer, Lt Col William Davies, from the Queen's Dragoon Guards, said: "The focus will be on getting all people and equipment back to the UK safely and in good order."

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  • StanStill  |  May 12 2014, 9:11AM

    We shouldn't be there in the first place, all those poor men killed for the vanity of Blair, who thought he would end up a hero like Maggie over the Falkl;ands. Unfortunately Blair got it totally wrong. He should be tried for War Crimes, a vacuous man, full of his own importance, a very poor PM, even worse than Gollum Brown.