British troops prepare to leave Afghan war combat role

Oct. 10, 2013 at 9:46 AM
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LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan, Oct. 10 (UPI) -- Afghan military leaders told their British counterparts they're ready to take the lead despite a rough road ahead, a British commander said.

The British Ministry of Defense sent its 7th Armored Brigade to Helmand province in southern Afghanistan to pack up military equipment ahead of next year's drawdown, the BBC said Thursday. The British forces deployed with the unit won't be involved in combat operations.

British forces contributing to the NATO-led effort in Afghanistan are wrapping up their war-time operations as national forces take the lead in securing the country.

"What I hear from local Afghan commanders and governance leaders is that they recognize the job that ISAF have done here for them," British Brig. Rupert Jones told the British broadcaster. "But importantly ... they are now ready to take forward the mantle."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he had questions about the strength of the Afghan security forces. Afghan President Hamid Karzai told the BBC in a recent interview NATO made very few gains in his country.

A September report from the British government suggested Afghan forces might not be up to the task of maintaining national security.

There will be 5,200 British troops in Afghanistan by year's end, about half the number at the start of 2013.

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