Tri-Service

Taliban Advance On Former British Stronghold

It was once a British stronghold and the city were thousands of UK troops were based whilst on operations in Afghanistan.

It was once a British stronghold and the city were thousands of UK troops were based whilst on operations in Afghanistan.  
 
But Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital of Helmand is on the verge of falling to the Taliban. 
 
It will be dissapointing and upsetting news to all those British troops who spent so much of their time in the city winning the hearts and minds of the locals and training and mentoring local security forces. 
 
British Army Corporal teaching trainees at Lashkar Gah Training Centre, 2012.
 
For the past two days, Taliban fighters have fought government forces over parts of Nad Ali, north-west of Lashkar Gah, a key district that British troops launched one of their largest operations to win over.
 
 
It comes just 12 months after UK combat troops left the province, just days before the first anniversary of Britain’s withdrawal of combat troops from the country. 
 
Only three weeks ago, the Taliban scored one of their most significant victories in the Afghan war since 2001 by capturing the northern town of Kunduz and holding the city centre for three days. 
 
The Army teaching Afghan Border Police trainees on patrol tactics.
Now their attention is on Lashkar Gah. 
 
A Western official told Reuters: “Helmand's capital appears to be under serious military pressure. We're hearing reports about civilians fleeing in large numbers."
 
According to an Afghan interior ministry spokesman, the Taliban have been fighting government forces in the suburbs of Lashkar Gah, prompting the dispatch of “a couple of hundred” extra troops to bolster the city’s defence.
 
“Lashkar Gah has a very tight security belt reinforced by our forces,” said Sediq Sediqqi. The government was planning night operations in Nad Ali and Musa Qala, another heavily besieged district, but the situation was not as bad as some residents perceived, he added.
 
Taliban Advance On Former British Stronghold In Afghanistan
 
“This is not very different from what has been happening in northern Helmand over the past couple of months. The Taliban are trying to pop in places in Helmand. They use these tactics to make sure people are frightened,” he said.
 
He added that he was confident Afghan security forces could protect Lashkar Gah from being overrun. “We are in no way concerned right now,” 
 
Residents, however, said they had not seen the Taliban capture territory so close to the provincial capital for a long time.
 
In 2006, Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital of Helmand was set up as the British headquarters and Task Force Helmand - the military unit of the International Security Assistance Force in Helmand Province.
 
The aim was to strengthen the Afghan government against a resurgent Taliban and to build up an Afghan National Security Force. 
 
 
By the time they handed over responsibility to the Afghan forces in July 2011 fighting in the city had reduced ten-fold and locals could live without fear of the Taliban. For the Afghan National Security Forces, it was seen as their first big test to take sole control of the city. 
 
Britain, American and their Nato allies spent years and billions of pounds trying to build up the Afghan forces to secure their own country, but security has fallen sharply in the past year.
 
For 13 years, UK troops fought in Afghanistan. Over that time 456 British lives were lost. 
 
Britain now has around 500 troops based in Kabul with a contingent of special forces, down from a peak of 10,000 troops in Helmand at the height of the campaign.