We are in Afghanistan for one overriding reason – to protect our national security by helping the Afghans take control of their own. We are helping the Afghan government to develop its ability to maintain security, so that it can prevent the return of international terrorists, such as Al-Qaeda, to Afghanistan.

Preventing the return of international terrorists has been the most important part of our work in Afghanistan and the terrorist threat to the UK from this region has been substantially reduced. The UK has played an important role in developing and training Afghan security forces. UK support has also helped Afghanistan to become a more viable state; one that can provide basic services, improve the lives of its ordinary citizens and reduce instability.

A range of international partners are also working in Afghanistan to develop security, governance, infrastructure, economy and the Afghan government’s ability to provide essential services.


Our work in Afghanistan is carried out in 3 main areas – military, political/diplomatic and development. We work alongside numerous other countries and partners to help develop the Afghan government so that it can determine the country’s future, eventually without significant help from the international community. The British Embassy in the capital Kabul provides a focus for the UK’s work in Afghanistan.

Military support

The UK’s military activities in Afghanistan are conducted under a UN Mandate as part of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

We are the second largest contributor to this coalition of 49 nations and the majority of our armed forces in Afghanistan operate in the southern province of Helmand. ISAF supports the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) providing training, advice and some assistance to the Afghan Army and Police. The ANSF’s ability to protect the population, provide a basic civilian policing service and prevent international terrorists from finding a safe haven in Afghanistan will all be crucial to Afghanistan’s long-term stability. ISAF’s practical support to the ANSF is now limited to more specialist capabilities such as surveillance, medical and air.

The ISAF mission is due to complete by the end of 2014, by which time the majority of the UK’s combat forces will have left Afghanistan.

At the Chicago Summit in May 2012 the UK agreed to contribute £70 million per year towards sustaining the ANSF. At the Afghan government’s request our Armed Forces have also taken the lead role in the coalition’s support to the Afghan National Army Officer Academy.

Economic and social support

We are helping Afghanistan to become a more viable state that can increasingly meet its population’s needs from its own resources. The UK’s development assistance is led by the Department for International Development. It works in 3 main areas to increase stability and reduce poverty:

  • improving security and political stability
  • stimulating the economy
  • helping the Afghan government deliver basic services

At the Tokyo Conference in July 2012 the UK agreed to maintain our development assistance of £178 million a year until at least 2017. This support will help the Afghan government to reduce extreme poverty, create jobs and achieve long term economic growth.

Afghanistan’s development into a more viable state is a long-term task that will continue to face many challenges. Our efforts are not designed to create a perfect Afghanistan but one that is able to maintain its own security and prevent the return of international terrorists.


The UK is in Afghanistan because the country had become a base for terrorists that threatened our country and the rest of the world. The Taliban government gave Al-Qaeda safe haven in Afghanistan and this allowed terrorists to plan and carry out attacks around the world, most notably the 9/11 atrocities in 2001.

Political settlement

The stability of Afghanistan will not be achieved by security activities alone and we are supporting the Afghan government’s efforts to achieve a political settlement that will secure peace and stability.