Defence Secretary sees progress towards transition in Helmand
Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox has visited British forces in Helmand province as they prepare to begin the process of handing over substantive security responsibilities to their Afghan counterparts in Lashkar Gah.
Accompanied by the Chief of the General Staff (CGS), General Sir Peter Wall, and the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, Dr Fox saw at first hand the training being delivered by British forces to thousands of Afghan soldiers and policemen ahead of the first phase of transition later this summer.
The two-day visit, which has just concluded, saw Dr Fox and his party travel across the British area of operations in Helmand province, meeting troops at Main Operating Bases Bastion and Lashkar Gah, and the smaller, more remote Forward Operating Bases and Patrol Bases.
As well as seeing training in action, Dr Fox and the military chiefs had the opportunity to speak with members of the Afghan forces and their senior officers about their increasing capability and confidence as they prepare for a future with themselves in the security lead. Dr Fox said:
“Transition is a process that is driven by the Afghan government and they have announced that the first phase will begin later this summer. To make that viable, we need rapid and continuous progress in the size and capability of the Afghan security forces, and that’s exactly what we are seeing.
“I found what I saw on my visit to be extremely encouraging. We are well ahead of schedule for training up our target numbers of Afghan soldiers and police by the end of the year and, thanks to the outstanding mentoring being provided by British Armed Forces, the quality is improving all the time.
“Of course, transition does not mean an early exit or early drawdown of UK forces. As Afghan capacity grows, the role of British and other international troops will evolve, moving from principally combat to training and support roles. But all the evidence on the ground suggests that by 2015 we will be in a position to conclude our combat mission.”
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