U.S. and British forces have formally ended combat operations in Afghanistan’s Helmand province. On Sunday, the NATO occupation handed over formal control to the Afghan military. British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said Afghanistan is poised for a more stable future.
British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon: “There is a better chance of a more stable future in Afghanistan because we have a government there of national unity and an army that is supported by the local population that represents all parts of Afghanistan — you don’t have the sectarian divide that we’ve seen in Iraq — and an army that’s already proved itself over the last couple of years that it is prepared to tackle the Taliban in some of the more difficult areas of north Helmand, and therefore there is a greater chance that Afghanistan will be more secure.”
Helmand is the center of Afghanistan’s drug trade, housing more than 80 percent of the poppy growth used for heroin. The New York Times reports “the Taliban have never been stronger in [Helmand],” claiming large areas around government centers and rural districts. The handover comes amidst the deadliest six-month period for Afghan forces since the war began 13 years ago. The handover also marks the end of British combat operations inside Afghanistan, while around 10,000 American forces will remain.