Britain’s war in Afghanistan has cost taxpayers £22.2billion, the Government has revealed.
The bill for the 20-year deployment, with the UK supporting the US War on Terror triggered by the September 11 terror attacks in 2001, can be revealed as the final British troops prepare to leave the battle-ravaged nation.
And the final cost is likely to be even higher because the bill disclosed by Defence Minister James Heappey only counts cash from a special Whitehall pot for the conflict.
Revealing the cost in a written parliamentary answer, Mr Heappey said: “As at May 2021, the total cost of Operation Herrick to HM Treasury Special Reserve is £22.2billion.”
Herrick was the Ministry of Defence’s codename for the deployment of British soldiers to Helmand Province in 2006 – five years after UK troops were first sent to Afghanistan with allies.
While the financial cost is huge, the impact on some UK servicemen and women has been devastating – with the Government confirming the latest grim toll of dead and injured.
“There were 457 fatalities on, or subsequently due to, Op Herrick. Of which 403 were due to hostile action. Op Herrick ran between January 1, 2006 and November 30, 2014, during which there were 10,382 UK Service personnel casualties. Of these 5,705 were injuries, and the remainder being illness or disease,” said Mr Heappey.
“Between January 1, 2006 and March 31, 2021, there were 645 UK Service personnel who were categorised as very seriously injured, seriously injured or who sustained a traumatic or surgical amputation due to Op Herrick.
“This includes any amputations in recent years that were elective or necessary during treatment as a result of previous injuries sustained.”
British combat troops left in 2014 and the UK’s remaining 750 troops in Afghanistan – Black Watch soldiers who are involved in training local forces after – started to pull out of the country last month.
The withdrawal followed US President Joe Biden’s decision that all US troops will have left by September 11.
Most are expected to have returned home by the end of next month.
The head of Britain’s armed forces, Chief of the Defence Staff General Sir Nick Carter, admitted in April it was “not a decision that we’d hoped for”.
Millions of pounds worth of gear is expected to be left in Afghanistan because it is too expensive and tricky to ship it back to Britain.
Mr Heappey said: “The majority of UK military equipment will be returned to the UK.
“Some equipment may be de-militarised and disposed of in theatre should it be deemed uneconomical to recover to the UK.”
Yesterday, it emerged dozens of RAF transport planes will be sent to fly 3,000 Afghan interpreters and their families from Kabul to the UK amid fears for their safety after allied troops leave.