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Great Britain and Post War Conflicts

Britain in Afghanistan 2001 – 2014

Following the attacks of September 11, 2001 the United States invaded Afghanistan to remove terrorist training camps and to capture the leadership responsible for the attacks being harboured in Afghanistan. Within a few weeks the Taliban Government in Afghanistan had been toppled and replaced by the anti-Taliban, US backed, Northern Alliance.

Throughout 2002 and until the present day, Britain has been involved in various ways in Afghanistan and has been the second largest contributor of military forces for the United Nations and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) operations in the country next to the United States.

British forces have conducted military operations, training and nation building with the Afghan police and Army and civilian authorities for almost ten years. As a result of Britain’s involvement in the current Afghanistan war there have been over 400 members of the British armed forces killed in action and many others wounded. 

Britain has also played a key role in the political and diplomatic moves that have seen the region move from war to relative peace but with complicated insurgency and terrorist operations being carried out in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Britain withdraw all of its combat forces from Afghanistan at the end of 2014. Some non-combatant personnel remain to advise the Afghan army and provide other support.


The Gulf War - 1990/91

Also known as the Persian War, the Gulf War was caused by Saddam Hussein, Leader of Iraq, invading his neighbour, Kuwait. Given an ultimatum to leave by 15th January 1991 a military campaign began shortly after. Find out all about the war at our dedicated page here

Britain in Iraq 2003 -2010 

The 2003 invasion of Iraq was one of the most controversial foreign policy decisions ever taken by a British Government. There was widespread public and political unease at British involvement.

The invasion began with an air campaign and a US-British ground campaign into Southern Iraq.

Within a month from the invasion starting British forces had captured Iraq’s second city Basra and the United States were in Baghdad, Saddam Hussain the Iraqi leader was forced into hiding and the country collapsed into chaos. The majority Shia population, which had to a large extent been excluded from power, was initially jubilant at the toppling of Saddam Hussain. 

This euphoria soon made way for blood-letting and score settling by a number of insurgent groups - mainly drawn from embittered Sunnis, foreign fighters, former members of the Iraqi army and Baath party supporters of the former regime and Shiite groups and a brutal and bloody campaign of sectarian killings, kidnappings and bomb attacks.

Power was transferred to an interim Iraqi Government in June 2004, and in January 2005, Iraq held its first multi-party elections in over 50 years, which saw the Shia dominated parties swept to power and take the lead in a new coalition.  The coalition was unable to hold the line and maintain law and order and peace and security within Iraq.

In 2008, the United States implemented a policy of a "surge" in their troop numbers, combined with a joint US-British special forces operation to defeat the insurgents and the recruiting of a number of moderate Sunni tribesmen in the struggle against militants and an ever expanding Iraqi police force and army with increased capability succeeded in reversing the influence of the death squads and the militants and the number of attacks were reduced significantly. 

The British occupation of Basra did not experience the same level of violence that was being targeted at US forces across Iraq. But, by early 2006, the Iraqi insurgency began to affect the area under British control. In 2007 the insurgency was in full swing with regular attacks on British forces and significant casualties being taken.

Lacking political support at home and lacking the numbers and equipment required to control a city of two million people and confront and defeat a determined insurgency, Britain began to negotiate a withdrawal from Basra and apart from its special forces operations a full withdrawal from Iraq.

Britain formally withdrew from Iraq in April 2009. Over 100,000 men and women served in Iraq and 179 service men and women lost their lives in the Iraq War.

Britain is still feeling the consequences of her action in Iraq both politically at home and in terms of her reputation around the world as seen with the parliamentary vote to take action in Syria.

In June 2009 US troops withdrew from Iraq's towns and cities, handing over security to Iraqi forces. In line with a pledge by US President Barack Obama the last US combat troops left Iraq in August 2010. The last US troops had left Iraq by the end of 2011.


Britain in the Falklands War 1982

On 2 April 1982, Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands. The Falkland Islands had been a remote British colony in the South Atlantic for over 150 years. Argentina had always claimed that the Islands belonged to them in the 1880s.

Britain still in the throes of its post war decline and economically struggling was humiliated around the world by the actions of Argentina and its own failure to predict and respond to the Argentinian invasion.

Mrs Thatcher the new British Prime Minister ordered the armed forces led by the Royal Navy to retake the Islands by force if necessary. 

The Falklands War was a short but very brutal war of 74 days which claimed the lives of 255 British servicemen and three Falkland Island civilians and over 650 Argentine dead.

Britain emerged from the Falklands War a much more respected and confident nation. The actions and achievements of the British armed forces in re-taking the Islands were remarkable considering the logistical and military challenges they faced.

The British maintain a credible defensive posture in the Falkland Islands to this day and Argentina although through peaceful means maintains their claim to the Islands.


Britain and the Korean War - 1950

Almost 100,000 British troops fought in Korea in 1950 and two Victoria Crosses, Britain's highest military honour, were awarded. 

North and South Korea remain divided by the fortifications of the 38th Parallel. But many regard Korea as the forgotten war in British political and military history. Find out more about it here.

British Casualties in Major Wars and Conflicts

Hundreds of thousands of British citizens lost their lives in conflicts fighting for their country. Click here to find out more about this.