Friday, 12 March 2010

Musa Qaleh: an all-round success story for British troops

Until the recent arrival of additional US troops in Helmand, UK forces had been responsible for the security of 70% of the total Afghan population with only 30% of the coalition troops.

This statistic in itself underlines how heroic have been the achievements made by British forces so far in Helmand - not only in providing dramatically improved security to such a large proportion of the Afghan people but also in delivering the enhanced stability that enables reconstruction to take place.

The arrival of an additional 12,000 US marines has meant that UK forces can be released from protecting such places as Musa Qaleh and redeploy into deeper and more effective formations in central Helmand. This rebalancing will allow British troops to deliver yet more security as well as freeing up the time and resources necessary to extend their training and mentoring role with Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP).

UK forces first deployed to Musa Qaleh in summer 2006 since when dramatic progress has been made. Insurgent activity in the district centre has been contained and greater security has been brought to the area - a direct result of the developing partnership between UK and the ANA and the ANP. However, as Defence Secretary Ainsworth said when paying tribute to British troops: "We must never forget the 23 brave service personnel who gave their lives to make Musa Qaleh an area in which Afghans can go about their daily lives in security and under strong, stable governance".

Although responsibility for security in Musa Qaleh will pass to the Americans, reconstruction will remain a British responsibilty. Already healthcare, education (2,300 kids in school when two years ago there were none) and employment have all improved and there has been a tangible increase in commercial activity in the bazaar and markets. Work will soon be starting on a new local government centre and other civic infrastructure projects.

Speaking ahead of the handover to the US Marine Corps, Lt Col Harry Fullerton, CO the Household Cavalry Regiment said: "The important thing to stress is that what they are taking over is a British success story, British battle group's have been here over the past years and they have progressively expanded the area of governance, it hasn't been without its cost but it has been a cost worth making in order to deliver success for the British Army, the British Government and most importantly the people of Afghanistan."

Job well done!

MoD: Household Cavalry commander reports on challenging three months in Helmand