BRITISH forces in Afghanistan have handed over responsibility for security in Sangin to US forces, marking the defeat of their four-year mission in the area.
The 1,000 Royal Marines and other personnel are being redeployed to central Helmand province.
The UK has suffered its heaviest losses in Sangin. Of the 337 UK deaths since 2001, a third have happened there.
The point had been reached where the British army could take no more, so it has had to swallow its pride and cut and run, leaving the US army to take the strain.
Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox yesterday tried to put a brave face on what is a major defeat for the British army, which has never won an Afghan war, in four attempts.
Fox said UK troops should be ‘proud of their achievements’, but was unable to detail them.
He admitted that Sangin remained ‘one of the most challenging areas of Afghanistan’, after four years of British army intervention.
He said: ‘The level of sacrifice has been high and we should never forget the many brave troops who have lost their lives in the pursuit of success. . .’
British troops will redeploy to the much less challenging central Helmand.
The US Marine corps, which has taken over Sangin, has immediately dumped the British tactic, pulling out of the patrol bases that the British fought hard to establish and protect.
Control was formally handed over from UK forces to the US Marine Corps at 0630 BST, with the Union flag being lowered, making way for the Stars and Stripes.
The US forces will now attempt to do the job that British forces started but could not finish.
MoD spokesman Maj Gen Gordon Messenger, a former commander of the UK Helmand task force, said yesterday that this was ‘absolutely not’ a pull-out.
Yesterday the remaining British patrol bases were being shut down while many of the Royal Marines who served there are angry that they are handing over an area that was so savagely fought over.
As far as many of them are concerned, the war was another case of ‘lions being led by donkeys’.
They cite the way that troops were told in 2006 by Defence Minister John Reid that not a shot would be fired during their mission, and the way that he was backed up by the leading military.
Several million rounds later they have now been run out of Sangin.
Many fear that with massive defence cuts being organised by the Tory-LibDem coalition they will shortly be out of a job as well, with leaks already circulating that more than 10,000 troops are to be dispensed with.
All in all, the Afghan war was the model unwinnable, doomed to fail imperialist adventure.
The government was unaware of what it was getting into, while the military who knew better, went along with the government, leaving the troops to take the strain.
Many troops now think that the folks back home are right to oppose the war and that the Afghan people should be left to sort out their own affairs, while the real enemy is at home, and it is the government and the general staff.