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Britain hands over Helmand command

Britain's command of military operations in Helmand Province has been handed over in the latest step in the UK drawdown from Afghanistan.

In a milestone for British involvement in the conflict, UK troops in Helmand will come under the command of an American general, as British-led Task Force Helmand comes to an end and British forces left in Afghanistan become part of the US-led Regional Command (South West).

It is the latest in a series of steps marking Britain's withdrawal of combat troops from Afghanistan - due to be complete by the end of this year.

Last month the MoD announced the closure or handover of three frontline bases in Helmand, leaving just one outside Camp Bastion.

Some 448 British forces personnel or MoD civilians have died in Afghanistan since the start of operations in October 2001.

The latest was Sapper Adam Moralee from 32 Engineer Regiment, who died on March 5 in Camp Bastion when he was injured while preparing equipment to be brought back to the UK.

The number of British personnel in Helmand has reduced from a peak of more than 10,000 to around half that number as Afghan National Security Forces have taken the lead across Afghanistan.

Deputy Commander Regional Command (South West), Brigadier Robert Thomson, will now be Britain's senior officer in Helmand, serving as deputy commander of Regional Command (South West).

Last month Brigadier James Woodham, the final commander of Task Force Helmand, said "history would judge" the success of the UK mission in Afghanistan.

He said he had seen huge progress in central Helmand since his last tour of duty in 2009/10, giving him "hope for the future".

Asked if the sacrifice of 448 British lives during the conflict was worth it, he said: "It's always a difficult question to ask when there has been a human cost.

"I guess ultimately history will judge the worth of what we've been doing at our Government's request here."


From Belfast Telegraph