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Troops did not die in vain, says PM

British soldiers who lost their lives taking and holding Sangin "did not die in vain", Prime Minister David Cameron has said, as the Afghan town was handed over to US forces.

Control of the area was handed from 40 Commando Royal Marines to the US Marine Corps, ending a four-year presence which has cost 106 British lives - 36 this year alone.

Mr Cameron hailed the "magnificent job" done by British troops, and rejected suggestions that the transfer of control was a sign that the UK had failed to complete its mission.

The Ministry of Defence described the handover - announced in July - as the last move in the "rebalancing" of the International Security and Assistance Force (Isaf) across Helmand, which will allow 1,000 Royal Marines and other UK forces to be redeployed to the central part of the southern Afghan province.

The transfer of authority came as a soldier killed by an explosion in nearby Lashkar Gah district on Saturday was named as Trooper Andrew Howarth, 20, of the Queen's Royal Lancers.

Sangin, a key economic and transport hub in southern Afghanistan, has been the scene of the bloodiest fighting by British troops, accounting for almost a third of the 337 deaths since 2001.

Speaking in 10 Downing Street, Mr Cameron said: "We should share the burden properly with our allies, we should concentrate our forces where they can have the maximum impact.

"Our troops have performed magnificently in Sangin and I pay tribute to the thousands who have served, to the over 100 who have given their lives and the many who have been wounded.

"They did not die in vain. They have made Afghanistan a safer place and they have made Britain a safer place and they will never be forgotten."

He confirmed his intention to end Britain's combat presence within five years, saying: "I am absolutely clear that by 2015, we will not have large numbers of troops, or combat troops, in Afghanistan."


From Belfast Telegraph