Afghanistan — Reorganisation of forces in southern Afghanistan

Changes to the inter­na­tion­al force struc­ture in south­ern Afghanistan, includ­ing the deploy­ment of the UK’s The­atre Reserve Bat­tal­ion and the rede­ploy­ment of British troops from San­gin to cen­tral Hel­mand, have been announced today.

Forward Operating Base Jackson on patrol in Sangin
British forces based at For­ward Oper­at­ing Base Jack­son on patrol in San­gin
Source: Lead­ing Air­man (Pho­tog­ra­ph­er) Si Ethell, Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

Defence Sec­re­tary Dr Liam Fox announced the series of changes to Par­lia­ment. The changes will bet­ter reflect cir­cum­stances on the ground and the ear­li­er divi­sion of Region­al Com­mand (South) into two sep­a­rate com­mands.

Dr Fox said that the ele­ments of the UK The­atre Reserve Bat­tal­ion, cur­rent­ly pro­vid­ed by 2nd Bat­tal­ion The Duke of Lancaster’s Reg­i­ment, will deploy tem­porar­i­ly at the request of the Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force (ISAF) to cen­tral Hel­mand province in mid-July to under­write recent gains in the area.

Dr Fox said that these addi­tion­al forces, num­ber­ing 300 in total, will give com­man­ders addi­tion­al flex­i­bil­i­ty over the sum­mer to rein­force progress in cen­tral Hel­mand.

This deploy­ment, he con­tin­ued, will be a pre­cur­sor to the next stage in the phased reor­gan­i­sa­tion of inter­na­tion­al forces across the new­ly-cre­at­ed Region­al Com­mand (South West), reflect­ing the deploy­ment of more than 18,000 addi­tion­al ISAF troops to the province over the past 18 months.

See Relat­ed News to read more about the cre­ation of Region­al Com­mand (South West).

International Security Assistance Force Regional Command (South West) staged force redeployments
Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force Region­al Com­mand (South West) staged force rede­ploy­ments
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

The British pres­ence in San­gin will be moved when the cur­rent tour of 40 Com­man­do comes to an end and will be replaced by US forces.

The Chief of the Defence Staff, Air Chief Mar­shal Sir Jock Stir­rup, said:

“The tem­po­rary deploy­ment of the The­atre Reserve Bat­tal­ion will allow ISAF to build on the sig­nif­i­cant progress we have already made in cen­tral Hel­mand and to dri­ve home improve­ments in secu­ri­ty, gov­er­nance and infra­struc­ture.

“These forces are also an essen­tial pre­cur­sor for the next stage of the reor­gan­i­sa­tion of ISAF forces in Hel­mand in which we will hand respon­si­bil­i­ty for San­gin to our Amer­i­can coun­ter­parts.

“This reor­gan­i­sa­tion makes very sound mil­i­tary sense and ensures that UK troops are deployed in the most effec­tive way along­side ISAF and Afghan forces.

“Our Ser­vice per­son­nel can right­ly be enor­mous­ly proud of the work they have done in San­gin and the sig­nif­i­cant progress that they have achieved there.

Royal Marines of 40 Commando
Roy­al Marines of 40 Com­man­do car­ry out a rou­tine ground dom­i­na­tion patrol in San­gin
Source: Lead­ing Air­man (Pho­tog­ra­ph­er) Si Ethell, Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

“San­gin is a chal­leng­ing area of Afghanistan and we leave it a bet­ter place. The expe­ri­ence our troops have gained there will be vital in the work they will con­tin­ue in the impor­tant pop­u­la­tion cen­tres of cen­tral Hel­mand.”

The changes in San­gin are able to be made because ISAF intends to restruc­ture its forces in Farah and Nim­ruz provinces and in north­ern Hel­mand so that it can con­sol­i­date a US Marine brigade in the Upper Hel­mand Val­ley which will assume respon­si­bil­i­ty for secu­ri­ty in San­gin lat­er this year.

This in turn will enable UK troops to be rede­ployed to rein­force progress in the key dis­tricts of cen­tral Hel­mand, allow­ing those deployed as part of our The­atre Reserve Bat­tal­ion to with­draw.

ISAF’s plan will tidy up the cur­rent arrange­ment where British forces in San­gin come under US com­mand. The result will be a coher­ent and equi­table divi­sion of three brigade-sized con­tri­bu­tions, with the US in the north and south, and the UK-led Task Force Hel­mand, with our Dan­ish and Eston­ian allies, in the cen­tral pop­u­la­tion belt.

Dur­ing his state­ment to Par­lia­ment today Dr Fox said:

“In San­gin, UK forces have made huge progress in the face of great adver­si­ty and we take pride in our achieve­ments there. The dis­trict cen­tre has been trans­formed. Cen­tral Hel­mand is a safer place as a result of our endeav­ours and sac­ri­fices.

“On the ground, we con­tin­ue to make progress. There will be hard days ahead, but the fur­ther changes I have announced today mean more man­pow­er and greater focus for the key bat­tle­ground of cen­tral Hel­mand.

“We have the right strat­e­gy and we are deter­mined to see it through.”

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK