ISAF has today announced that British forces in Afghanistan have handed responsibility for security in the town of Kajaki in northern Helmand province to US forces.
The reconfiguration, ordered by ISAF commanders, is part of an ongoing rebalancing of troops following the uplift of coalition forces in Helmand province and will better support the strategy of winning over the civilian population by protecting them from Taliban insurgents.
ISAF force numbers in Helmand have increased from around 10,000 to 30,000 in recent months - in addition to 10,000 members of the Afghan National Security Forces.
The change in command and control in this area will mean that UK forces who have been based in Kajaki can now be released to turn their attention to other high priority tasks.
Around 150 UK personnel, mainly part of the 40 Commando Battle Group, will now redeploy to thicken and deepen the British presence in Sangin.
This will allow them to continue work to improve security in Sangin to better protect the population while accelerating the growth of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).
Major General Gordon Messenger said:
British forces are redeploying from Kajaki with their heads held high with the knowledge that they have changed the area for the better.
The increased security that they have provided in partnership with Afghan personnel has allowed vital work to take place on the Kajaki Dam. More access to power will mean that facilities and businesses continue to grow and local people can get back to the business of farming their lands.
US forces are now ready to build on this work and ensure that further progress is made in Kajaki.
The security that Afghan and UK forces, working in partnership, have provided in Kajaki in the past four years has allowed the refurbishment of a hydroelectric turbine at the Kajaki Dam, providing vital power to areas of Lashkar Gah, Musa Qal’ah and Sangin.
As a result, local health services, education and trade have been boosted by the increase in the amount of power provided to schools, clinics, government offices and local businesses.
In addition, ANSF and UK forces have been driving the insurgents away from the population centres, making local people safer and allowing them to go about their business free from Taliban intimidation.
The announcement was made in a briefing to the media in the MOD’s Main Building in London; also addressing the press was Major General Richard Mills, US 1st Marine Division commander and commander of the new Regional Command (South West) in Helmand province.
In addition to the force transfer in Kajaki, Major General Mills spoke of the wider force laydown changes and praised the achievements made by British forces so far.
Major General Mills said:
On preparation for becoming an independent regional command, the UK brigade under Brigadier Felton came under our command and I’m going to say that for me it’s an honour to have them as part of this force; they bring with them a magnificent record of accomplishments within the very key districts of the central valley and the very tough but critical assignments in Sangin and Kajaki Dam.
“Their performance has been nothing short of magnificent.
I believe that progress made by the UK forces within the very vital central river valley area and against significant opposition has been remarkable and has clearly shaped conditions for future transition of security responsibility back to the Afghan authorities.
“The central Helmand river valley is our centre of effort, the centre of my attention, and will remain so in the months ahead.
What happens there influences conditions throughout Helmand province and conditions in the Kandahar area. It’s key ground. The bulk of the 1.5 million residents of the Helmand province live there.
“That is where the UK forces are mainly based. And look for progress to continue there and to expand in the months ahead.”
Focusing on Sangin Major General Mills said that a high price had been paid by British forces for progress in the area but that progress was being made and troops were focused on the mission in hand:
We are consistently pushing out further and further in the district centre,” he said, “providing more and more security and consistently separating the insurgents from the local population.