Prime Minister David Cameron has said Britain will “never forget those who made the ultimate sacrifice” as UK combat troops brought their campaign in Helmand province to an end.
UK forces handed Camp Bastion over to Afghan officials, concluding their bloodiest chapter in the 13-year conflict with a poignant ceremony.
Mr Cameron tweeted: “We will always remember the courage of those who served in Afghanistan on our behalf and never forget those who made the ultimate sacrifice.”
The UK is preparing to withdraw combat personnel entirely from Afghanistan by the end of the year and is next expected to hand over a base in Kandahar, the country’s second largest city.
Among the UK’s 453 casualties who lost their lives there were many from the North East. One of the first was Private Damien Jackson, 19, from South Shields, Tyne and Wear, who died in July 2006 while taking part in a 3 Para Battle Group foot patrol in Sangin.
One of the latest was Sapper Adam Moralee, 23, from Newcastle of 32 Engineer Regiment, who died after he was injured while preparing equipment for redeployment out of Afghanistan in March this year.
Looking back on Britain’s campaign, which began in October 2001 Secretary of State for Defence Michael Fallon admitted that “mistakes” had been made.
He said on BBC’s Andrew Marr show: “Clearly the numbers weren’t there at the beginning, the equipment wasn’t quite good enough at the beginning, and we have learnt an awful lot from the campaign.
“But don’t let’s ignore what has been achieved. We have now some six million people in school in Afghanistan, three million of them girls.”