During the ceremony, which was attended by more than 30 prominent local elders, a transition agreement was signed by Col. Mohammed Zai of the Afghan National Police and Lt. Col. Ian Mortimer, commander of U.K. forces in Lashkar Gah. This marks the final stage of security transfer in the Lashkar Gah municipality, the largest and most heavily populated region of Helmand province.
Soldiers from The Queen’s Royal Hussars and 1st Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment have been working closely with their Afghan counterparts during their six month tour, which is now drawing to a close. Their work has led to a 69 percent reduction in violent activity when compared to the same six month period last year.
“In the last few months we have taken many checkpoints from ISAF and this is the final one. We will never let the insurgents come back to Babajij,” said Afghan Lt. Esmerai, 8th Precinct commander, Afghan Uniformed Police.
“I’m very pleased and proud of the progress the boys have made - it’s got us to the position where we can close checkpoints and hand them over to the Afghan Uniformed Police," said Lt. Col. Ian Mortimer, commander, Combined Force Lashkar Gah and commanding officer of The Queen’s Royal Hussars. “The main effort has been the development of Afghan National Security Forces. The Brigade Advisory Group and the Police Mentoring Advisory Group have done a lot of work to develop institutionally the police and here on the ground we see the benefit of their efforts. Overall the progress has been outstanding."
“The Afghan Police have proved that they are ready to take over this area," said Cpl. Simon Kenyon, Halifax, 30, a soldier with 4th Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment. "I’ve built up really close relationships with the AUP at this checkpoint; we have worked really well together. I think the security situation is really good compared to what it used to be. The locals themselves agree with us on that and they’re always saying that we’ve helped so much in this area.”
The process of transition for security responsibility from ISAF to Afghan forces in Lashkar Gah began in July 2011. During this time violence levels have fallen dramatically across the region, Afghans have benefitted from improved freedom of movement and pupil enrolment for both girls and boys has risen.
The British mission in Southern Afghanistan continues to make considerable progress as U.K. forces work with their Afghan partners to prepare the neighbouring Nahr-e Saraj district to begin the transition process. British forces will conclude their combat role by the end of 2014.