British troops on Sunday formally ended combat operations in southern Helmand province, paving the ground for the final transfer of security to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), ISAF said.
Following 13 years of war, UK soldiers stood shoulder-to-shoulder with their US Marine Corps (USMC) and Afghan counterparts to witness the British flag lowered for the last time at Camp Bastion in Helmand province.
The ceremony marked the end of operations for UK and US coalition command under the umbrella of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Denmark, Estonia, Georgia, Tonga, Jordanand Bosnia also contributed troops to the command.
In a statement from the NATO-led force, Secretary of State for Defence Michael Fallon said: “It is with pride that we announce the end of UK combat operations in Helmand having given Afghanistan the best possible chance of a stable future.”
British troops’ sacrifice had laid the foundations for a strong Afghan security force, set the security context that enabled the first democratic transition of power in the country’s history and stopped it being a launch pad for terrorist attacks in the UK.
Chief of Defence Staff General Sir Nick Houghton said: “Over 13 years of operations in Afghanistan, thousands of men and women from all of our Armed Forces have played a hugely significant role in delivering a security legacy for the people of Afghanistan…”
Helmand’s Governor Naeem Baloch acknowledged British troops and their allies had helped to improve security in the province. “We are very grateful for the courage and commitment of your soldiers and we are ready to deliver security ourselves.”
The British military presence in Afghanistan began in October 2001, when troops deployed as part of the NATO response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the US.
Control of Camp Bastion and Camp Leatherneck was given over to the Afghan National Army's 215th Corps. Around 10,000 UK troops were once stationed at Camp Bastion, a number that fell to a few hundred.