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The 500-strong British force in Musa Qala, along with the troops withdrawn from other places under the plan, will move to the population centres of central Helmand.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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea