31 March 2010

British "concern" abut handing over Helmand

On first read-thru, Bob Ainsworth's criticism of the Helmand handover sounds like more US-bashing, but as you read it, you realize that his remarks could easily apply to any other allied nation. His point is that relationships don't hand off the same way real estate does.

Bob Ainsworth risked sparking a row with the White House tonight after claiming he would be 'very, very concerned' about Britain handing military control of Helmand province to the U.S.

The Defence Secretary spoke out in the Commons after reports that American commanders had drawn up controversial plans to take over leadership in the Taliban heartland.

Britain has been responsible for security in Helmand since 2006. Most of the 278 UK troops who have lost their lives in Afghanistan have fallen there.

But earlier this month Mr Ainsworth said the U.S. Marines Corps would take over security in the town of Musa Qala in the next few weeks as part of a 'major rebalancing' of forces fighting the insurgents.

Reports at the weekend suggested British forces would hand over their remaining bases in Helmand to the U.S. as early as this year.

Speaking to MPs yesterday, Mr Ainsworth said UK servicemen and women had built up a high degree of local understanding in the unsettled province which 'shouldn't be lightly thrown away'.

By: Brant

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