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UK armed forces deaths and casualties

Over the last 20 years of deployment in Afghanistan there have been 457 deaths of UK armed forces personnel. The number of fatalities peaked during 2009 and 2010, when over 100 personnel were killed. Of the total 457 personnel who died whilst on deployment to Afghanistan 405 died because of hostile action.

During Operation Herrick, the codename for which all British military operations were conducted from 2002 to 2014, there were 616 serious or very serious casualties among armed forces and civilian personnel. As with deaths, these casualties peaked in 2009 and 2010.

There were a total 7,807 field hospital admissions, although most admissions were related to disease or a non-battle injury. Around 28% (2,209) of admissions to field hospitals were those wounded in action.

Additionally, there were 7,477 medical air evacuations during the 12-year operation.

Cost of UK operations in Afghanistan

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) publishes information on the cost of military operations and interventions undertaken by the UK armed forces. The cost of these operations is reported in terms of the net additional costs, meaning costs over and above those that the MoD would have incurred if the operation not happened. For example, expenditure on pay, or savings from cancelled training exercises, are deducted from the total cost of the operation.

On this basis, the Afghanistan operations Herrick and Toral have cost around £27.7 billion, in 2021 prices.

The cost of initial operations in Afghanistan in 2001 and 2002 was between £300-400 million. This fell by around 85% for the following couple of years. As the focus of the armed forces shifted to Helmand province, the cost of operations began to increase quickly. Between 2005/06 and 2009/10, costs increased by an average of 132% per year.

Operation Toral, the UK operation as part of NATO’s Resolute Support Mission post-2014, has cost an average of £90 million per year.

UK aircraft missions in Afghanistan

During operation Herrick, there were a total 14,467 missions flown by the Royal Air Force. A mission is a particular task which one or more aircraft has been ordered to complete.

At the beginning of the operation, RAF missions were mostly conducted with the Harrier jet, although by 2009 the Tornado jet and Reaper drone had an equal share of missions. From 2010 onwards, missions were roughly split equally between the Tornado and Reaper.

Afghan refugees in the UK

Since 1996, there have been around 63,000 applications for asylum in the UK from Afghan nationals. During the same period, 30,600 asylum applications from Afghans have been successful on the initial decision and at least 5,400 more have been granted on appeal.

Since 2003, 354 Afghans have been resettled to the UK. Resettlement is the process of transferring recognised refugees directly to the UK from third countries of asylum (for example, in this case, Iran and Pakistan). It is separate to the UK’s in-country asylum system.

The most asylum applications submitted by Afghan nationals was in 2001 (8,918). Afghans were the largest nationality group to submit applications in that year and were the second largest group in 2002, after Iraqis. The trends can be seen in a chart on page 17 of the Library’s asylum statistics briefing.

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