British soldiers 'ran towards the explosion' at Kabul airport, senior officer says

Brig James Martin speaks of compassion troops showed during airlift operations

British and US armed forces working at Kabul Airport. MOD/AFP
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After a bombing at Kabul airport, which killed about 170 people, British soldiers “ran towards the explosion”, Brig James Martin said.

The senior British officer said troops treated casualties and helped secure the site so the US military could extract their dead and wounded.

He said the sight of his soldiers reacting to the deadly bombing was “one of the finest things I’ve seen”.

“They ran towards the explosion,” he said. “They provided immediate medical succour and support to the Afghan civilians that had been wounded.

“They provided Explosive Ordnance Disposal support to the Americans and they provided a security perimeter so the Americans could withdraw their wounded and their killed with dignity and under a screen of safety.”

Brig Martin also said that the 20-year British presence in Afghanistan had not been in vain, pointing to the absence of terrorist attacks in the UK originating in the country.

“None of us would want to see Afghanistan where it is at the moment, but I would observe a couple of things. So, in that 20 years, not a single terrorist attack emanated from Afghanistan. And ultimately, that is why the coalition went in there in the first place.”

Brig James Martin (left), commander of the 16 Air Assault Brigade. MOD/AFP

He also highlighted the education of over six million women and girls as well as the freedom that people enjoyed while British forces were present.

“During that time, roughly 6.3 million women were educated, a legacy that will continue. You can’t un-educate those women.”

He was in charge of the land element of the Kabul operation, the biggest evacuation since the Second World War, and spoke of his pride in the troops under his command for the compassion they showed during the airlift.

“I think people have an idea about 16 Air Assault Brigade, the maroon beret, the parachute regiment and other airborne forces, and they expect us to be able to fight and they will know about what we describe as the Pegasus ethos, the airborne ethos, courage, determination, those sorts of attributes. We expect that selflessness.

“I think what people may be less inclined to have seen or connect with us is just a degree of compassion and humanity that our soldiers showed on the ground.”

The final British troops flew out of Afghanistan on August 28, although the government has since opened talks with the Taliban to enable the removal of British citizens still in the country as well as those Afghan nationals eligible to come to the UK.

Updated: September 04, 2021, 10:23 AM