After eight years, countless battles and hundreds of lives sacrificed, Britain’s command of Helmand Province in Afghanistan came to an end on Tuesday as control of the area was handed over to US forces.
In a moving ceremony at Camp Bastion, which included a two minutes’ silence for the 448 British servicemen and women killed in the conflict since 2001, an American General took charge of the mission ahead of the withdrawal of all British forces later this year.
More than 400 of the British fatalities in Afghanistan occurred under Task Force Helmand, a mission which lasted twice as long as the First World War, despite the former defence secretary John Reid’s suggestion in 2006 that UK forces might not fire “a single shot”.
Padre Steven Whiting told 300 service personnel attending the ceremony: “From the poppy fields of Ypres to those of Helmand province, our bravest and best have borne the cost of freedom for others.”
British forces will remain in Afghanistan, but will now report to the US Marines as part of the Regional Command (South West), which is headed by the American Brigadier General Daniel Yoo.