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Afghan army 'on track' to take over

The Afghan army is making "great leaps forward" and is "on track" to take over security in the country by 2014, British commanders have said.

There are now 146,000 trained Afghan warriors and some have earned praise for risking their lives to save their British comrades.

"They are well on track for achieving 171,600 warriors by next October," Major General John Lorimer, the Chief of Defence Staff's strategic communication officer, said.

"But it's not just about quantity, it's about quality. We've seen an increase in the overall quality of individuals as well as their collective performance."

Lieutenant Colonel Chris Ghika, Commanding Officer of Task Force Helmand Brigade Advisory Group, which mentors the Afghan 3/215 Brigade, said: "They are continually proving themselves to be both competent and confident on patrol.

"They are brave in the fight. They are willing to tackle the insurgents head on and they are astute and shrewd in their judgment when they are dealing with the local population."

Speaking from Helmand via videolink, he described an incident during the recent Afghan-led Operation Omid Chah in Gereshk.

A British platoon was patrolling from a newly established base when they came under fire, with a number of men going down wounded.

Lt Col Ghika said: "During the ensuing firefight the ANA (Afghan National Army) covered 300 metres of open ground under quite heavy fire to come to the aid of their British partners.

"The ANA suppressed the insurgents, they assisted in the treatment and the extraction of the casualties and then had the presence of mind to extract the ISAF equipment back to the patrol base."

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