The decision follows criticism that more than 1,000 soldiers, sailors and aviators who took part in the arduous Operation Pitting would not be recognised with a bespoke medal because the two-week operation did not meet a 28-day continuous service threshold.
Describing the gruelling operation in today’s Sunday Express, Lt Col David Middleton, commanding officer of 2 Para, said: “It felt like six a month tour crammed into two weeks. There was not a moment’s respite. Tireless work, no sleep and debilitating conditions proved a real test of human endurance.
“Nor did our people just do the things normally associated with soldiering. They found baby milk to feed young children waiting to be extracted. They procured minibuses from the UK to increase the flow of transport.
“For those young 19 and 20-year-old soldiers having to make life and death decisions around Kabul airfield in an instant, I know it was especially tough knowing we couldn’t save everyone.”
While a costly bespoke medal is not being considered, senior officers have proposed a compromise move which would see a special clasp be presented to sit under the Afghan medal already awarded to those who have served in Helmand, Kabul or Bagram.
And, since at least two thirds of those troops who took part in Operation Pitting had never set foot in the country before, they will also be awarded the Afghan medal, of which there are plentiful supplies.
Senior sources last night said there was “every confidence” that the move would be approved by the Advisory Military Sub-Committee, which works under the Committee on the Grant of Honours, Decorations and Medals.
Additional honours such as the Military Cross and the Queen’s Gallantry Medal are also being considered for those who carried individual acts of bravery or particular compassion.
These include paratroopers who showed extreme compassion and risked their lives by going into the crowd — where suicide bombers may have lurked — to rescue women and children and Social Forces soldiers who mounted rescue missions into the streets of Kabul at night to locate ‘entitled persons’ and ferry them to the safety of the airport, and medics who went to the aid of Afghans at the airfield.
Also in the frame are crew of an RAF C-130 who landed their aircraft in darkness at a remote desert landing strip to rescue 25 SAS soldiers isolated at Kandahar.
A military source said: “It is unusual to award a clasp, or bar as it is officially known, for such a short operation, but this was exceptional and we all witnessed the threats they faced on television.
“The proposal needs to process through the tri-service chain of command and must be endorsed by the defence secretary – the process is always highly confidential but there is widespread support for a clasp and every confidence that it will go through.”
An MoD spokesperson said: “Medallic recognition for the evacuation in Afghanistan will be considered in due course. The current qualifying length of service is 30 days and any decision to change that will take lengthy consideration.
“Medals or awards for individual acts of bravery or leadership are separate to the length of deployment criteria and are therefore considered based on a citation by citation basis.”