Operation Herrick is the codename under which all British operations in the war in Afghanistan have been conducted since 2002. Operation Herrick was preceded by Operations Veritas and Fingal in 2001.
Operation Herrick has evolved during the past eight years from a small force providing security in Kabul and training the Afghan National Army (ANA), rising to 1,600 service personnel in 2006 and 9,500 at the end of 2009.
The coalition forces are drawn from forty-two countries and British contingent is now the largest coalition force after that of the USA. The main tasks of the coalition forces is to make the country secure for the Afghan people, to train the Afghan army and police and to rebuild the infrastructure.
So far, more than 250 British service personnel have lost their lives in the Afghanistan conflict. Historical background to the war in Afghanistan The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is a landlocked, largely mountainous country in Asia, bordered by Iran, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and China.
Its location connecting Asia and the Middle East has made it an important focal point and subject to invasion from neighbouring regions. It was also important as a buffer state in the political machinations between the British and Russian Empires during the late 19th century.
There were three Anglo-Afghan wars, with Afghanistan regaining independence in 1919 following the final war. The Soviet Union invaded in 1979 with an army of over 100,000 troops in order to support the government. The USA supported the opposition, the Afghan mujahideen, which had taken up arms against the Soviet troops, as part of the Cold War strategy. It is possible that as many as two million Afghans died during the ten years of Soviet occupation.
The Americans lost interest after the Soviet troop withdrawal and after civil war; the strict Islamic Taliban came to power and they imposed restrictions on the populations such as preventing women from working or taking part in education.
During this period, it was thought that Afghanistan had become a haven for terrorists, particularly Al Quaeda. Operation Enduring Freedom was launched by the USA in 2001 to destroy Al Quaeda training camps in Afghanistan; and also threatened to overthrow the Taliban regime if it failed to hand over their leader, Osama Bin Laden.
The coalition forces continue to fight the Taliban, but are also helping to rebuild Afghanistan and to make it safe for the Afghan people.