UK to withdraw troops from violent Afghan region
Last Updated: Wednesday, July 07, 2010, 23:31
London: Britain will withdraw its 1,000 troops from the violent-hit Sangin region of Afghanistan where they have suffered heavy losses and allow US troops to take charge, Defence Secretary Liam Fox said on Wednesday.

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

Fox said the NATO-led ISAF force would restructure its forces in southern Afghanistan "so that it can consolidate a US marine brigade in northern Helmand which will assume responsibility for security in Sangin later this year."

"This will simplify current command arrangements and enable UK troops to be redeployed to reinforce progress in the key districts of central Helmand," Fox added.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, who has made Afghanistan his top foreign priority also confirmed that he wanted to bring British combat troops home within five years.

The British Defence Secretary said that the move was a logical redeployment, and not a withdrawal, because there were now more American troops in the area following President Barack Obama's troop surge in the war-ravaged country.

British military described Sangin as an area with deep Taliban affiliation, riven by tribal conflict and a major centre for opium production.

British soldiers who are leaving Sangin will focus on operations in central Helmand where they will work with Danish and Estonian allies, Fox told the House of Commons.

An estimated 300 troops from a reserve battalion based in Cyprus would temporarily reinforce central Helmand until the changes had taken effect later this year.

Britain's 9,500 troops in Afghanistan are based in Helmand, scene of the Afghan war's worst fighting. British troops account for a third of foreign troops in Helmand, but are responsible for protecting a larger share of the province's population.

The withdrawal of British troops from Sangin would help to redress the imbalance.


First Published: Wednesday, July 07, 2010, 23:31

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