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Royal Irish fly the flag as tour of duty in Kabul gets under way

By Rebecca Black

The Royal Irish Regiment has officially taken over duties as the newest Kabul Protection Unit in the Afghan capital.

Around 500 soldiers from the regiment's 1st Battalion are in the country to provide security, training and support.

They arrived in stages over the last few weeks and are now based around three main locations - the airport, the centre of the city and in the national army academy.

Their duties became official at the weekend when the soldiers took part in a "transition of authority" ceremony, receiving the handover from the 2nd Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles.

The ceremony included officers and soldiers from a number of nations.

Captain Andre Genillard took down the Gurkas' battalion flag accompanied by one of the battalion's pipers.

Captain Wes Brown of 1 Royal Irish raised its battalion flag accompanied by Lance Corporal Warner on the pipes.

The Gurkhas had been in Kabul since April as part of Operation Toral, a protection mission for Nato staff in the city.

They were kept busy as part of Nato's Resolute Support Mission, providing support to the Afghanistan Government, with their primary role being to protect UK and Nato mentors supporting the training of Afghan National Army (ANA) officer cadets.

Commanding Officer of 1 Royal Irish, Lt Col Graham Shannon, said the main job of his unit will be to provide security and support in the capital.

"My team will continue the relentless pursuit of excellence to drive this mission forward," he said.

"The importance of the mission is clear, communication is key - we need to use that skill to build relationships with our partners, those we protect, and with each other.

"As we meet and forge bonds with our Nato partners over the coming months it is worth reflecting that we are no strangers to each other - serving alongside each other as far back as Bastogne and Normandy."

Brigadier Ian Thomas, Commander British Forces Afghanistan and Commander Kabul Security Force, said: "The Gurkhas have certainly improved the situation in Kabul.

"They have proved to be great 'team-mates', working exceptionally well with our allies and partners here in Afghanistan."

He added: "I wish the Royal Irish the best of luck during their time in Kabul."

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