Dec 2, 2014
UK retains Chinooks in Afghanistan
Three RAF Chinooks previously assigned to operations in Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan have been relocated to Kabul to support the servicemen that remain in the country following the wider withdrawal of UK forces last month.
The Chinooks become the last UK air assets to remain in Afghanistan following the announcement in mid-November that all UK forces had now left. While the RAF's Panavia Tornado GR.4 strike aircraft were withdrawn to much fanfare in mid-November, there has been no public announcement related to the other air assets in theatre, beyond the general announcements about UK forces having left their main area of operations in southern Afghanistan.
Other UK air assets stationed in Afghanistan comprised the RAF's General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), a number of which have now been transferred to operations over Iraq, as well as the British Army's AgustaWestland-Boeing Apache AH.1 attack helicopters, AgustaWestland Lynx AH.9A support helicopters, and Thales Watchkeeper WK450 UAVs. All of these are now understood to either be back in the UK or in transit back to the UK.
In July, military sources disclosed that the upgraded Westland/Aerospatiale SA 330E Puma HC.2 medium-lift transport helicopter may be deployed to Kabul in 2015 to help support the NATO training mission in Afghanistan.
This MoD statement regarding the retention of some Chinooks in Kabul demonstrates that NATO and the West was never going to be able (or even willing) to make a clean break from Afghanistan with the cessation of combat operations at the end of 2014.