HC Deb 28 November 2001 vol 375 cc909-10W
Mr. Hancock

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans there are for personnel involved in Exercise Saif Sareea 2 to be deployed to Afghanistan to aid in the operations in Afghanistan; and if he will make a statement. [15314]

Mr. Hoon

Exercise Saif Sareea 2 finished on 29 October. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State announced on 26 October 2001,Official Report, columns 549–64, that a force drawn from the exercise would be: retained in the region to provide the operational flexibility to deal with a wide range of contingencies.

This force comprises an Amphibious Task Group based around HMS Illustrious and HMS Fearless, including 200 men of 40 Commando Royal Marines (with the rest of 40 Commando held at high readiness in the UK), and Nimrod maritime patrol and Hercules transport aircraft. A Tomahawk-armed submarine presence and a number of reconnaissance and air-to-air refuelling aircraft are also in the region.

Following the fall of Mazar-i-Sharif and Kabul, a number of units from 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines that had taken part in Exercise Saif Sareea 2 were placed on reduced notice to move in case they were required to support humanitarian or other missions in Afghanistan.

Royal Marines from 40 Commando have subsequently been deployed to Bagram airfield. The deployment to Afghanistan of other units or personnel which took part in Exercise Saif Sareea 2 remains under review: no decisions have been taken.

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