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Defence and Security Strategy

TFH-1Mec Bde Photo: MoD
TFH-1Mec Bde Photo: MoD

Vigilance can report that the headquarters of the British forces deployed in Afghanistan is set to move from Lashkar Gah to Camp Bastion this summer. Announcing this recently during a visit to see British troops in the country was the Defence Secretary Philip Hammond.

 

Task Force Helmand has been based in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand Province, since 2006 but will relocate in a move that is in line with the drawdown and redeployment of British forces as the Afghan forces prepare to take operational lead.

Camp Bastion is located next to the Afghan National Army’s Camp Shorabak and 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 per cent of all security operations across all of the Afghan population by the end of the summer.

Defence Secretary Philip 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.”

Secretary Hammond added: “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, the Commander of 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 atCamp Shorabak.  This will allow even closer co-operation at the brigade level, where our focus now lies.”

Vigilance learnt Defence Secretary Philip Hammond 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.

An MoD source said 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 the Merlin helicopters for redeployment to the UK, adding the Merlin helicopters are the first major equipment to be redeployed from Theatre and recently finished operations.

The Defence Secretary 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.

Also, Vigilance learnt that during the Kabul section of the visit, 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.

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.

The Defence Secretary reiterated: “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.”

He enthused:  “I was impressed by the significant work that has been undertaken to develop the Afghan National Army Officer Academy, where British forces will continue to train Afghan officers as part of our continuing commitment to Afghanistan beyond 2014.”