Camp Bastion: Eerie footage shows abandoned former British base in Afghanistan

'The presence of troops acted as a lighting rod for local resistance,' says a former British soldier who fought in Afghanistan

Jess Staufenberg
Monday 01 August 2016 16:39 BST
Recent footage shows Helmand is a ghost town

Footage has emerged of the British army's abandoned former base in Afghanistan, Camp Bastion, even as Taliban forces gain a greater hold of the area.

Stretches of sandy ground criss-crossed with rolls of barbed wire, concrete walls, radar towers and aircraft hangars are shown seemingly deserted at a camp which once held 10,000 British personel.

The base was exited by British troops after 13 years and formally handed over to Afghan government forces as a barracks for the Afghan National Army in October 2014. Plans for a possible commercial airstrip were also reported.

But footage from the BBC shows an empty site. Meanwhile, reports from the region state that Taliban forces control half of Helmand province, with the Islamist extremists winning Kanashin district as recently as July 30.

Joe Glenton, a former soldier with the Royal Logistic Corps in Afghanistan, said the decision to re-invade Afghanistan had "re-energised the Taliban" and operations from Camp Bastion and similar bases "destabilised the entire region".

"The presence of troops acted as a lighting rod for local resistance", he told The Independent.

"The decision to re-invade - which we must understand was partially to offset our massive failure in Basra [in Iraq] - reenergised the Taliban and pulled in non-Taliban local fighters at the costs of thousands of British and Afghan dead and wounded."

Mr Glenton said British politicians chose to ignore the advice of the SAS commanding officer, who told the government after a 2005 tour of Helmand that there was no insurgency in Helmand but an invasion would "give you one".

Referring to criticism that Camp Bastion was evacuated too early, Mr Glenton said: "We should have left earlier or, better, have never committed thousands of troops into a region we did not understand, with no plan, on behalf of the corrupt Karzai [President of Afghanistan] puppet regime."

The strategic base in southern Afghanistan's Helmand province, first set up in 2005 and rapidly expanded in 2006, was the biggest British overseas military base since the Second World War.

Camp Bastion cost £50m to fully build in 2006 and £300m to destroy it again eight years later.

Meanwhile, combat operations in Afghanistan resulted in the deaths of British 453 servicemen and women.

Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, said at the time of Camp Bastion's closure that there was “no guarantee” Afghanistan would be “stable and safe” following the departure of western fighting forces.

The Ministry of Defence, which says that US soldiers are still training Afghan forces nearby, said in response to the new footage: "The UK has a long term commitment to build a more secure, stable and prosperous Afghanistan.

"Though our combat mission ended in 2014, the UK continues to support the Government of Afghanistan through NATO’s train, advise and assist mission, Resolute Support.

"The UK also provides substantial political, financial and development support."

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