U.S. Marines and service members from the United Kingdom left Regional Command Southwest in Afghanistan’s Helmand province today, turning their facilities over to the Afghan security forces.
The lift-off followed a ceremony held at the former command post of Marine Expeditionary Brigade Afghanistan at Camp Leatherneck, signifying the transfer of Camps Bastion and Leatherneck to the control of the Afghan National Army’s 215th Corps.
Regional Command Southwest is the first of the International Security Assistance Force commands to transfer authority to the Afghan national security forces as ISAF moves toward the Resolute Support mission that begins in 2015.
During the past year, Bosnia, Estonia, Denmark, Georgia, Jordan and Tonga ended their operations in Regional Command Southwest.
‘A very, very tough area’
Army Gen. John F. Campbell, ISAF commander, acknowledged that Helmand has been a “very, very tough area,” and he expressed confidence in the Afghan forces. “We feel very confident with the Afghan security forces as they continue to grow in their capacity and they continue to work better between the police and the army," he said.
Army Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, commander of ISAF Joint Command, echoed that confidence. "We lift off confident in the Afghans’ ability to secure the region,” he said. “The mission has been complex, difficult and dangerous. Everyone has made tremendous sacrifices, but those sacrifices have not been in vain."
Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Daniel D. Yoo, commander of Marine Expeditionary Brigade Afghanistan, said today’s transfer is a sign of progress. “It's not about the coalition,” he said. “It is really about the Afghans and what they have achieved over the last 13 years. What they have done here is truly significant.”
The Marines, sailors and British service members flew to Kandahar Airfield after the ceremony and will return home in the coming weeks.