British bases in Afghanistan down to just two, combat operations will cease by the end of this year.
The United Kingdom has reduced its military presence in Afghanistan to just two bases in Helmand province, handing over the rest to Afghan control.
The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), of which Britain is a member, has committed to withdrawing all combat forces in Afghanistan by December this year.
According to a statement from the Ministry of Defence issued on Sunday, the main operating base at Lashkar Gah and patrol base Lashkar Gah Durai have been handed over, while a third operating base MOB Price has also been closed.
From 137 UK bases, there now remains Camp Bastion, which is the main base for UK personnel, and Observation Post Sterga 2. The majority of the former UK bases are now in the hands of the Afghan National Security Forces.
“UK combat operations will cease by the end of this year but our support for the Afghan people will continue. Meanwhile, our troops will continue the mammoth task of getting our people and equipment home by Christmas,” Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said.
Afghan forces are now leading 97% of all security operations across the country and are carrying out over 90% of their own training, the statement reveals.
At its peak in 2009 there were 9500 military personnel were deployed in Afghanistan by the UK, making it the second largest contributor of soldiers in the 49-nation coalition that is in Afghanistan.
Between October 2001 and March 2014, a total of 448 British personnel have died while serving in Afghanistan. There have been 7222 field hospital admissions of the injured between October 2001 and January 2014.
Under the name Operation Herrick, UK operations have been largely concentrated in the Helmand province, which is why the remarks by Afghanistan President Ahmad Karzai in a recent interview to the Sunday Times has infuriated the families of UK soldiers whose sons and daughters were injured or killed in Afghanistan.
In the interview Mr. Karzai singled out Helmand as a region where the NATO-led forces had failed.
"In general the US-led Nato mission in terms of bringing security has not been successful, particularly in Helmand," he said.
"This whole 12 years was one of constant pleading with America to treat the lives of our civilians as lives of people."
Britain has always maintained that the reason for its military presence in Afghanistan is to keep the UK free from terrorism, although the two main terrorist attacks on British soil – the July 2005 bombings of the London underground, and the killing of soldier Lee Rigby – took place after its Afghanistan intervention.