British provincial team ends work in Helmand

March 20, 2014 at 12:07 PM

LONDON, March 20 (UPI) -- Thursday is the final working day for a British provincial reconstruction team in the Afghan province of Helmand, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said.

Hague said the Helmand PRT is closing its operations after more than seven years as a British-led operation. All but three of the 33 teams, led by 15 different countries, will withdraw by the end of the month.

"The drawdown of the PRT has involved the handover of many activities to the Afghan government," he said in a statement from London. "Closure of the PRT marks a change in the U.K.'s relationship with Helmand, but does not mark its end."

International combat forces are expected to leave Afghanistan later this year as Afghan national forces take on the primary responsibility of securing their country. British forces helped train their Afghan counterparts from bases in Helmand province.

Hague said the British PRT in Helmand helped re-open all of the healthcare facilities and 61 percent of the schools that were shuttered by conflict.

International plans to transition from a combat to an advisory role are complicated by Afghan President Hamid Karzai's refusal to sign the necessary security arrangements. With provincial council and presidential elections set for April 5, Karzai said he'd leave the dealmaking to whoever replaces him as president.

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