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Middle east mission Who are the elite Irish soldiers heading into Afghanistan?

Ireland is sending highly trained Rangers to Afghanistan. But who are these elite soldiers and what will they do when they get to Kabul?

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Elite Army Rangers during a training exercise

Elite Army Rangers during a training exercise

Elite Army Rangers during a training exercise

Ireland is sending highly trained Rangers to Afghanistan. But who are these elite soldiers and what will they do when they get to Kabul?

The mission to Kabul is borne of the lessons learnt after charity worker Sharon Commins was kidnapped in Sudan in 2009 and the Tripoli evacuation operation in 2011.

Who or what exactly are the Rangers?

The Army Ranger Wing (ARW), also known within the Irish Army as the 'Wing', are the Irish State's premier special forces unit.

After a team of soldiers was sent to train with US army rangers at Fort Benning, the ARW was created in 1980.

It was set up to deal with the growing terrorist threat facing Ireland externally and internally and other specialist tasks.

They have gone on to develop a range of skills associated with special forces soldiering. In addition to hostage rescue interventions, resolving aircraft hijacks, Rangers train in long-range patrolling and insertion behind enemy lines to gather intelligence.

They are also trained to use weapons systems not normally available to the regular soldier.

Rangers have previously been deployed to conflict areas such as Somalia, East Timor and Chad.

They rescued a group of kidnapped civilians in Liberia in 2003 and most recently have been under fire in Mali while serving on a UN mission as part of a German-led battle group.

Why are they going to Kabul?

The Rangers are deploying to Kabul as part of a Department of Foreign Affairs-led Emergency Consular Assistance Team (ECAT).

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This concept was created following both the Commins kidnapping and the Tripoli evacuation operation in 2011.

The Rangers and diplomats work together to evacuate Irish citizens from conflict zones where order has broken down and the regular means for exit and travel have collapsed.

What will they do there?

The Rangers and diplomats will work with European and US partners to escort Irish citizens to safety in Kabul airport.

They will then ensure they are granted access to seats on the US aircraft that have been agreed between the US and Irish governments. The Rangers will also be providing protection to the two diplomats who have been sent out as part of the ECAT.

What are they armed with?

The Rangers will be travelling light and will most likely carry personal weapons such as Sig Sauer P226 and P228 pistols.

They will likely also have Heckler & Koch MP5 and HK416 automatic rifles - both have short range, making them ideal for use in built-up areas.

Based on the volatile crowd conditions at Kabul airport, they will most likely also carry Remington 870 and Franchi SPAS-12 combat shotguns.

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