Gurkhas in Iraq and Afghanistan

Gurkhas in Iraq and Afghanistan

Gurkha soldiers have been involved in conflicts in Afghanistan since the 1840’s and the Middle East since 1914. They have also taken part in all recent operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan

In August 1990 Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces invaded the small neighbouring state of Kuwait. An international coalition responded to this invasion with an aerial campaign against Iraqi forces commencing in early January 1991 and ground troops entering Iraq near the end of February. British involvement, codenamed Operation GRANBY, included Gurkha troops of the Queen’s Own Gurkha Transport Regiment (today the Queen’s Own Gurkha Logistic Regiment), who formed up as 28 (Ambulance) Squadron. The Band of the Brigade of Gurkhas also deployed as stretcher bearers. Although Iraqi forces were comprehensively defeated, Saddam Hussein remained in power for another 12 years.

In 2001, after terrorist attacks on the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in New York, and on the Pentagon, U.S. President George W. Bush announced the launch of the ‘War on Terror’. An international coalition was created to deploy to Afghanistan to destroy Al-Qaeda and the Taliban government of the country, who supported them. The War on Terror was later broadened to encompass another invasion of Iraq in 2003 to finally depose Saddam Hussein.  The British involvement was codenamed Operation TELIC. Brigade of Gurkhas  involvement in the initial Op TELIC deployment included the 69 Gurkha Field Squadron of the Queens Gurkha Engineers, 248 Gurkha Signal Squadron of the Queen’s Gurkha Signals and 8 Transport Squadron of the Queen’s Own Gurkha Logistic Regiment, as well as D (Gurkha Reinforcement) Company of the Royal Irish Regiment.

In Afghanistan, though the official Taliban government was quickly removed, an insurgency against the coalition forces emerged and the British forces (operating under the codename Operation HERRICK) which formed part of this coalition, redeployed in force in 2006 to combat it. Gurkha soldiers of 1st Battalion the Royal Gurkha Rifles were first sent to Afghanistan in 2006. Gurkha troops as a whole deployed in greater numbers than they had since the 1960’s, involving troops from across the Brigade (including, from 2011, members of the newly-formed Gurkha Staff and Personnel Support) and would continue to operate in the country until the conclusion of Operation HERRICK in 2014. Today units of the Brigade of Gurkhas continue to be involved in Afghanistan as part of Operation TORAL, the successor Operation to HERRICK, delivering training and support to Afghan security forces.

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