British troops 'confident' Afghans now able to fight off insurgents
A Westcountry military officer has said he is confident British troops can hand over their last patrol base in Afghanistan to local security forces.
Major Aaron West, from Plymouth in Devon, is involved in the closure of the last base in what was once an "insurgent hotbed" but has now been made safe, as the drawdown of troops continues.
Patrol base 2 (PB2), located in the Nahr-e Saraj district, has over the years seen heavy fighting as insurgents tried to take control of the area.
It is the last patrol base to close this year and one of the final roles for a number of Herrick 18 soldiers returning home shortly and only four bases, plus Camp Bastion, will remain into next year. The area around PB2 will be completely handed over to Afghan forces who have demonstrated they can maintain the security that has been established in the area, not least after they fought off an attempt by insurgents to enter the local village around three weeks ago.
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Maj West, 31, said British troops felt confident they could finally hang up their boots and 'extract' from the area because Afghan forces had shown they could fight off threats from insurgents with little help from the outside.
"Over the years and recently, the police and the army have been stepping up and taking the lead, and they've now established security in the area," he said. "We've mainly been providing aid and assistance to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) during the last couple of years and then more recently just reassurance.
"We're here for them just underpinning their will and their confidence, and they've got stronger and stronger.
"It's got to the stage now where all the operations are led by them, manned by them, and so there's no real need for us anymore, so that's why we're closing it and going home."
All combat operations in the country should be over by the end of 2014, leaving Afghan forces fully in control.