US troops to take over from British forces in Musa Qala

Afghan strategy changes in 'rebalancing' process as UK soldiers go to Helmand

A town which played an iconic and controversial part in the British mission in Afghanistan is to be handed over to the Americans in a move signalling a major change in Western strategy.

Musa Qala, where 23 British soldiers died, will be the first of a number of areas which will be transferred from UK to US control, reflecting the new military balance in Helmand where American troops now outnumber the British force.

A number of other areas currently under UK command will also go to the Americans as part of a "rebalancing" process. Sangin is expected to stay in British hands, but with the addition of an US contingent.

The 500-strong British force in Musa Qala, along with the troops withdrawn from other places under the plan, will move to the population centres of central Helmand. In effect this will mean that they will be concentrating on providing security for reconstruction projects while the US forces take on more offensive operations against the Taliban.

What took place at Musa Qala had come under repeated scrutiny and led to bitter recriminations involving the British, the Americans and the Afghan government.

Under a deal in 2006, British forces withdrew in return for local elders pledging to keep out the Taliban. But the claims followed from the US and the Afghan president Hamid Karzai that the area had been handed over to the insurgents. The open Taliban control of the town saw the Islamists levying taxes and imposing a brutal version of Sharia law. Musa Qala became a centre for mass production of opium with much of the proceeds going towards funding the insurgency.

It was recaptured at the end of 2007 in an operation by British, US and Afghan forces. However, the UK commander in charge of the operation, Brigadier Andrew Mackay, later left the Army early after criticising British government policy in Afghanistan.

Sizeable investment in reconstruction has followed.

The replacement force of US Marines will be larger than the current British force in Musa Qala by around 200. They will be accompanied by up to 800 Afghan soldiers and police.

Major General Gordon Messenger, the Ministry of Defence spokesman on Afghanistan, insisted yesterday that is was a "success story" but acknowledged that "lessons had to be learned".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
News
people
Voices
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: International Trade Advisors - Hertfordshire or Essex

£30000 - £35379 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The company is based in Welwyn ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Controller - Response Centre

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Resource and Recruitment Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Resource and Recruitment Manage...

Recruitment Genius: Junior IT Support Technician

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Junior IT Support Technician ...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn