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The headquarters of British forces deployed in Afghanistan is set to move from Lashkar Gah to Camp Bastion this summer.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond made the announcement whilst on a visit to Afghanistan, where he has met with the Afghan Prime Minister and Defence Minister and members of the UK Armed Forces deployed in the country.
Task Force Helmand has been based in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province, since 2006, and the relocation is in line with the drawdown and redeployment of UK forces as the Afghan forces prepare to take the operational lead.
Camp Bastion is located next to the Afghan National Army’s Camp Shorabak. The move will allow the British and Afghan headquarters to work closely together during the final stages of transition which will see Afghan forces leading 100% of all security operations across all of the Afghan population by the end of the summer.
Read more about the government’s policy to establish stability in Afghanistan
Mr Hammond said:
British forces have a proud history of service in Afghanistan and much of the hard work and effort has been planned from the Task Force Helmand headquarters at Lashkar Gah.
The success of Afghan forces in the areas in which we operate has been driving our ability to hand over security responsibility, which has seen a significant reduction in British bases from 137 three years ago to 13 now.
The brigade headquarters at Lashkar Gah will soon relocate to Camp Bastion as we continue to draw down our forces and redeploy our equipment and vehicles. This move will also allow our military commanders to liaise better with their opposite numbers in the Afghan National Army.
Brigadier Rupert Jones, Commander Task Force Helmand, said:
The position of the headquarters in Lashkar Gah has been vital to the achievements of successive Task Forces based here. It has allowed me and my predecessors to work closely with key Afghan officials, such as the provincial governor, and to train and advise our Afghan security partners, including the Afghan National Police.
Now, as the Afghan security forces take the lead and we lift off from training and advising at lower levels, it is appropriate that we relocate the Task Force headquarters to Camp Bastion, next to the headquarters of the Afghan National Army at Camp Shorabak. This will allow even closer co-operation at the brigade-level, where our focus now lies.
The Defence Secretary was briefed on the headquarters move during a visit to troops serving in Helmand province, which came after meetings with President Karzai and other Afghan ministers in Kabul.
In Helmand, the Defence Secretary received an update on the progress of the redeployment of British vehicles, equipment and materiel from Afghanistan while at Camp Bastion, including the work to prepare Merlin helicopters for redeployment to the UK.
The Merlin helicopters are the first major equipment to be redeployed from theatre and recently-finished operations.
Mr Hammond said:
I was encouraged to see the redeployment of British equipment and vehicles is progressing well, and is actually ahead of schedule.
The Merlin helicopters and crews have served ably in Afghanistan but, as our role has changed significantly in recent months, returning the Merlin fleet now is a key element of our orderly drawdown from Afghanistan.
In Kabul, the Defence Secretary met with President Hamid Karzai and Defence Minister General Bismillah Khan Mohammadi, with whom he discussed the ongoing transition of security responsibility to Afghan forces.
Mr Hammond also visited the site of the future Afghan National Army Officer Academy, where British military advisors will continue to train and advise officers from the Afghan National Army following the conclusion of the combat mission at the end of 2014 as part of the UK’s enduring commitment to Afghanistan.
Mr Hammond said:
The handover of security to full Afghan control across the country is imminent and Britain’s role is changing into one of assistance, advice and training.
In light of this change in responsibilities, I discussed the future security challenges facing Afghanistan with President Karzai and Defence Minister Mohammadi in Kabul.