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British Forces Leave Afghanistan's Deadly Sangin District


British forces in one of Afghanistan's deadliest regions have handed security control to United States troops. It has been more than four years since British troops were deployed to Sangin and in that time 106 Britons have lost their lives.

British forces handed control on Monday of the deadly Sangin district to U.S. troops, and about 1,000 Royal Marines are to be redeployed to Helmand province.

Speaking on the BBC Monday, British commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Paul James said British forces did make headway towards bringing peace and stability to Sangin. "I think it is important to recognize that governance has been allowed to develop here and take hold, development has been allowed to take hold and develop and really start to flourish now."

James said the most important step has been training Afghan forces in the area. "It is not going to be British forces who bring success to Sangin, it is not going to be American forces, it is not going to be anyone else other than the Afghans themselves."

Sangin is the site of one-third of British deaths in Afghanistan. Politics expert Steven Fielding, from Britain's University of Nottingham, said the British public will be happy for its troops to exit such a deadly region.

Public support for the campaign in Afghanistan has waned, he said, as the years have passed. "I think more people began to ask, 'Well, we know why we went in, but we do not know why we are still here,'" said Fielding.

The British army said its exit from Sangin is intended to rebalance forces across Helmand province and allow British forces to concentrate their energies in central Helmand.

In July, when the exit strategy was announced, the Taliban said it was a direct result of the militants' attacks against British forces. It said it was the start of British defeat in Afghanistan.

Fielding said it may appear as a step toward British withdrawal. "Both governments have been trying to lay down the foundations for a controlled withdrawal, so yes, I think it is part of the process of taking British troops out of the danger zone."

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron has said he hopes British troops will be out of Afghanistan by 2015.

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