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UK troops to hand over 'deathtrap'northern Helmand to US forces in Afghanistan

By Devaki

London, July 7 (ANI): A report has said that British troops will hand over some of the most dangerous and heavily contested parts of Afghanistan to US forces.

According to the Telegraph, Liam Fox, the Defence Secretary, will tell MPs today that British troops in Helmand province will hand over districts including Sangin, where scores of British troops have been killed.

The change will see British troops withdrawing from large parts of northern Helmand and concentrate on the central area of the province.

Today's announcement follows a change in the Afghan command structure that puts all troops in Helmand under the command of a US Marine Corps general.

"UK Forces continue to make real progress across Helmand including in Sangin, one of the most contested and challenging areas in southern Afghanistan," a Ministry of Defence spokesman said.

"ISAF is responsible for ensuring the most effective allocation of international forces to deliver the campaign strategy in Afghanistan and the UK fully supports ISAF commanders in this aim," he added.

Fox is expected to say that Britain will concentrate on Helmand's populous central belt, leaving the north and south of the province to the US. He will also insist that the changes are simply a sensible redistribution of manpower to reflect the differing sizes of the British and American contingents.

Meanwhile, the military analysts have said that with the US Marines now outnumbering British forces so heavily, it is inevitable that the Americans would take more responsibility in Helmand.

Ministers and commanders are worried that the changes will be seen as a retreat or a humiliation for British forces.

Plans for US Marines to replace British personnel have been under discussion from the beginning 2010 when an American 'surge' began, sharply increasing US numbers in Helmand.

Britain has around 8 thousand troops in Helmand, while the US Marine Corps now has nearly 20 thousand.

"The view of the British military is they probably don't have enough manpower to do that their areas of Helmand." the paper quoted Robert Gates, the US Defence Secretary, as saying on a visit to London last month. (ANI)

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