UK forces quit key Helmand district as Afghan forces take full control

UK forces no longer have a routine presence in Afghanistan’s Nad-e Ali district of Helmand Province, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said.

Afghan forces now assume full security control, ending more than five years of UK forces’ involvement in one of the most violent areas in the conflict.

Some 52 British soldiers lost their lives fighting the Taliban there, as did many Afghan soldiers, policemen and civilians.

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The Taliban still have strongholds a few miles away and regularly attack checkpoints and bases.

The MoD said the time is now right for UK troops to withdraw, claiming that Nad-e Ali has effective and accountable governance. The Afghan National Army (ANA) is also preventing insurgents from infiltrating the district and the Afghan National Police (ANP) are providing security.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said: “The courage of all of our Armed Forces who have served in the Nad-e Ali district of Helmand Province over the past five years has been impressive.

“Their commitment and hard work first helped to secure the area and then trained Afghan forces to take on security responsibility for this district.

“It is these Afghan forces, developed and trained by UK personnel, who will ensure that Afghanistan never again provides a safe haven for terrorists.”

The main bazaar in Nad-e Ali has been transformed into a bustling centre of business. It also boasts 29 schools, with almost 10,000 children in education –more than 1,000 of whom are girls – and four healthcare clinics.

The number of UK troops in Afghanistan is to drop to 6,000 this autumn as the Government continues its drawdown.

The number of armed forces personnel in the country, previously at around 7,900, is to fall to 6,000 in line with the aim to reduce numbers to 5,200 by the end of the year. All troops are planned to leave Afghanistan next year.