British troops set pull out of Afghan areas in Helmand

British troops will turn over responsibility for some Helmand districts where they suffered heavy loss of soldiers to Americans.

British troops set pull out of Afghan areas in Helmand

 

British troops will turn over responsibility for some Helmand districts where they suffered heavy loss of soldiers to Americans in a reconfiguration of NATO-led forces in the area, a newspaper website reported on Tuesday.

The move - set to be announced later by Defence Secretary Liam Fox - comes after Britain handed over command in Helmand to an American general last month.

The Guardian newspaper, citing unnamed political sources, said Britain would soon withdraw its 1,000 soldiers from the Sangin district of Helmand province, where they would be replaced by U.S. troops who now outnumber them in Helmand.

Sangin, a valley in the north of the province, has been one of the deadliest areas for British forces, accounting for about a third of the 312 British dead in the nine-year-old war.

The Ministry of Defence declined to comment on the report, saying only that Britain fully supports commanders of the NATO-led troops when allocating forces. A U.S. Marine two-star general is now in command in Helmand.

Defence Secretary Liam Fox is expected to make an announcement on changes to the deployment of British forces in Afghanistan in parliament on Wednesday.

The military has described Sangin as possibly the most challenging area of Afghanistan for British forces.

Nearly all of Britain's 10,000 troops in the country are based in Helmand.

British forces account for about a third of foreign troops in Helmand.

British troops have already turned over other mountain valleys in Helmand to U.S. Marines who arrived in large numbers in the province last year.

More U.S. troops

Britain's 8,000 forces in Helmand are now greatly outnumbered by the 20,000 US Marines sent there under President Obama's surge strategy.

Earlier on Tuesday, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said British troops in Afghanistan will have withdrawn from any combat role within five years.

Concerns about the costly U.S.-dominated Afghan mission have mounted as governments slash spending to rein in budget deficits and as the death toll has risen. June was the deadliest month for foreign troops since the conflict began.

The United Nations said in February that a record 2,118 civilians were killed during US occupation in Afghanistan in 2008.

US-led occupation has raised violence in Afghanistan, has angered residents and increased pressure on Hamid Karzai, the country's president. 
 

Reuters

Güncelleme Tarihi: 07 Temmuz 2010, 15:30
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