British army nears historic Afghanistan withdrawal

Cleared for public release by MAJ Clarence Counts, 7th Special Forces Group, Public Affairs OfficerBritain has handed over all but two of its remaining bases in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province to local forces as part of its planned full withdrawal by the end of 2014, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said.

In an operation lasting more than a month,the Lashkar Gah and Patrol Base Lashkar Gah Durai have been handed over to Afghan control. A third base, MOB Price, has also been closed, the ministry revealed in a statement.

Britain now has only two bases operational in Helmand: Camp Bastion, which serves as the main base for UK personnel, and Observation Post Sterga 2.

At the height of the war, about 10,000 British military personnel occupied 137 bases across the province in southern Afghanistan.

As of today there are about 4,000 UK personnel occupying just two: The main operating base at Bastion and an observation post called Sterga 2, which provides a useful vantage point over the Helmand valley.

In the coming months Sterga will be handed over to Nato command with the British-led “Task Force Helmand” swallowed up into Regional Command South West with a US Marine Corps brigadier general in overall charge.

“The handover and closure of our bases across Helmand underlines the progress UK Forces have made to increase security and stability across the province but also to build up the capability of the Afghan forces who will carry that work forward,” Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said on Sunday.

“Those service personnel who have served in Lashkar Gah and Lashkar Gah Durai and at MOB Price as part of successive UK brigades have made a huge contribution to the campaign which has safeguarded our national security at home.”

Hammond pledged Britain’s continued support for the Afghan people even after the planned drawdown.

Brigadier James Woodham, Commander Task Force Helmand, said the handover represented “a historic moment in the UK’s military campaign in Afghanistan.”

“That we are no longer required to operate from these bases is a sign of the progress made by Afghan forces delivering security for their own people,” he added.

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