Fort George soldiers from Royal Regiment of Scotland fly south ahead of Afghanistan mission
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BRITISH soldiers based at Fort George on the Moray Firth are heading for Afghanistan.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) confirmed that 180 troops from the 3rd Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland (3 SCOTS) the Black Watch have left Fort Georg.
Yesterday, defence secretary Ben Wallace visited the troops before they departed "to make sure that they are ready but also to understand what is on their minds.”
They will form part of a high readiness reserve massing at the Joint Air Mounting Centre at South Cerney for Operation Pitting to evacuate British passport holders and entitled personnel from Kabul at short notice.
The same soldiers only returned from the city in June, where they were providing protection for the NATO training and Mentoring Mission in the city.
Mr Wallace spoke to the soldiers to wish them well, before meeting staff from the Quartermaster’s Department, who had spent the previous week preparing kit and equipment in order to facilitate any short notice deployment.
The Taliban contols most of Afghanistan after the withdrawal of US troops from the country.
That has sparked desperate scenes at Kabul airport as foreign nationals and entitled Afghans try to leave the country before an August 31 deadline.
Mr Wallace said: “I have seen the company of the regiment off on its way to forward-locate down in Brize Norton to make sure they are ready as the reserve for what might happen next in Afghanistan.
“It is really important to see the guys off and set out to them about what they can and cannot expect though I think it is important to touch base with one of the units of the 16 Air Assault Brigade, Britain’s ‘Ready Brigade’ to make sure that they are ready but also to understand what is on their minds.”
Mr Wallace added that there was little chance of the UK remaining in Afghanistan beyond the US pullout date, saying: “If their timetable extends even by a day or two then that will give us a day or two more to evacuate people because we are really down to hours now not weeks.
“And we have to make sure we exploit every minute to get everyone out.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is at the G7 where he can argue for a pause that will allow more time to evacuate people to safety as thousands gather at Kabul international airport in a desperate bid to escape after the Taliban seized the capital.
There are currently 6000 US troops at Kabul airport and the UK Government has said it cannot keep the airport open on its own if the US pull out next Tuesday.