Press release

Alun Cairns visits Afghanistan and praises: “incredible spirit and contribution” of Welsh soldiers

Visit marks one month to go to National Armed Forces Day in Llandudno

Alun Cairns delivers Welsh Jerseys to the troops

Welsh troops based in Afghanistan are showing the “incredible spirit” of Welsh soldiers throughout history as they work to support the war-torn country, Alun Cairns said today.

The Secretary of State for Wales spoke after a 24-hour visit to see soldiers of the Welsh Guards based in the Afghan capital Kabul. Mr Cairns sat down with soldiers to learn more about their role in providing security and mentoring help to Afghan officials as the country’s Government continues its work of reconstruction. He also met senior British army commanders for an update on the troops’ peace-keeping mission.

Mr Cairns said:

I was inspired by the incredible spirit and determination of the soldiers I met who are doing their job in a volatile and often dangerous environment.

Having heard from the soldiers first-hand about their life in Kabul, I am incredibly proud of what the Welsh Guards are doing. This is a regiment with a century-long history of serving across the world in conflicts from WWII to Palestine and the Falklands. They are now on their third tour of duty in Afghanistan, and showing the incredible spirit they always do.

While I have always championed our Welsh servicemen and women, being in Afghanistan really brought home to me the work they do in dangerous circumstances. All of Wales owes them a vote of thanks.

The Welsh Football and Rugby Union teams joined forces to send their thanks to the Welsh Guards serving in Afghanistan – in the form of signed shirts for the troops. The Secretary of State was able to deliver the morale-raising gifts on the visit. When the WRU and FAW heard about the trip, they donated the shirts – signed by the team – which now proudly hang on display inside the Kabul Barracks.

Mr Cairns said:

I am really pleased our football and rugby teams came up with the shirts as a recognition of the important work being done by our troops. They are doing a fantastic job in a volatile climate, and it is vital that our soldiers know they are always in our thoughts. These shirts are a permanent reminder of that.

There are currently 260 members of the Welsh Guards battle group deployed to Kabul as part of NATO’s Resolute Support Mission from all parts of Wales. The Secretary of State for Wales visited the Regiment’s base camp, sat in on preparations for a patrol and also learned more about their support for the Afghan National Army Officer Academy – often compared to the country’s equivalent of Sandhurst – which is producing the Afghan army’s future officer corps.

Notes to editors:

  • The Secretary of State visit took place from May 27th to 29th, but details could not be released at the time for security reasons.
  • The Welsh Guards came into existence on 26 February 1915 by Royal Warrant of George V in order to include Wales in the national component to the Foot Guards. They were the last of the Guards to be created, with the Irish Guards coming into being in 1900. Just three days later, 1st Battalion Welsh Guards mounted its first King’s Guard at Buckingham Palace on 1 March 1915 – St David’s Day. Since then the Welsh Guards has served in WW2, Palestine, Aden, The Falklands War, Northern Ireland, the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan. The Welsh Guards are Wales’s Senior Infantry Regiment with a formidable reputation forged throughout the last century.
  • The regiment maintains very close links to the Royal Family and the Colonel of the Regiment is HRH The Prince of Wales. Due to the regiments dual role as combat soldiers and ceremonial troops, it is inextricably tied to the Royal Family. It is the fifth regiment of Foot Guards and regularly conducts guard duty at the Royal palaces and on state occasions such as the Trooping of the Colour.

What the UK is doing in Afghanistan: The Facts

  • The UNSC authorised international action against terrorism in Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks. Preventing Afghanistan ever again becoming a safehaven for terrorists is our top priority in Afghanistan.

  • We have set up the Afghan National Army Office Training Academy which, as of 23 November, has trained over 3000 highly skilled Afghan Army Officers, including 100 female cadets. Currently, over 600 of our British Military are mentoring the Afghan Forces to secure the city of Kabul, train their next generation of leaders, and lead the forces to provide security for their own country. We’re providing over £70 million per year to sustain the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces.

  • We have helped to ensure that more than 6.4m Afghan children can attend school, 38% of whom are girls; that more than 60% of the population now lives within 2 hours walking distance from public health facilities, compared to only 9% in 2002; and we’ve cleared nearly 85m sq metres of land from dangerous mines - including stunning UNESCO World Heriatege XV century minarets in Herat - to help Afghanistan be declared mine-free by 2023. We’re now supporting farmers to increase rural incomes by £34 million, supporting businessmen to create over 20 000 new jobs and improving health services to ensure over half of all births are attended by trained healthworkers, whilst helping over 300 000 more girls in isolated areas attend school.

  • We have supported civil society and a reformist Government of Afghanistan that has a vision for the future and that is committed to bringing peace and security to the region, creating an Afghanistan that is self-reliant and less dependent on external support, and offering public services and increasing opportunities in an inclusive and fair manner for the Afghan people.

  • We encourage all nations to work with the Government of Afghanistan, and the international community, to support peace and security in Afghanistan.

Published 29 May 2018