A major step in the timetable to 2014’s withdrawal of foreign combat forces is expected this week when Afghanistan’s President Karzai may announce the next list of places stable enough to transfer to full Afghan security control.
The actual transition ceremonies should take place early next year, depending on local conditions.
Among the former battlegrounds now deemed relatively secure is Helmand’s Nad-E-Ali district, where to date 38 British military have died
As recently as March there were almost daily battles between insurgents and UK troops.
Major James Glossop of 1st Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment recalled:
“Not eight months ago, the Royal Irish were here. They were in contact (with the enemy) every day.”
“And now here we are; I’ve taken over an AO (Area of Operation) with five locations. I’ve handed over two in the space of a month to the Afghan National Civil Order Police.”
“I hope by Christmas, we’ll have handed over two more and we are pushing ourselves to the periphery.”
The improvements mean soldiers patrolling between the once deadly high mud walls in nearby Masroof Khalak village face the the only distraction of youngsters eager for souvenirs.
In nearby Zorabad the local police commander welcomed the soldiers to his home with other elders to celebrate the end of Ramadan.
Capt. Haji Manan said more, better trained and equipped police had helped drive out the insurgents.
“There’s no Taliban in the village,” he told BFBS Forces’ News. “Because this area is very successful, very clear and secure.”
Sgt Leon Sharp commanding the military’s smallest outpost, overlooking a key canal crossing put it succinctly.
“Nad-e-Ali’s gone from being one of the most dangerous places, to one of the safest.”
There has been a reduction in insurgent activity across the region. Latest ISAF statistics record 17 acts of violence in southern Helmand, in September compared with 227 twelve months previously.
If stability can hold in a former enemy stronghold like Nad-e-Ali, peace has its best chance.
What has been achieved here could hold the key to the whole country’s future.