Monday, July 27, 2009
The commander of UK forces in Afghanistan has hailed their latest operation a success, as its first stage draws to a close.
Brig Tim Radford was "cautiously optimistic" about the future but said there was "a long way to go" to improve security in time for elections.
Twenty UK soldiers have died in Operation Panther's Claw - involving 3,000 troops - since its June launch.
Troops will now focus on holding ground won from the Taliban in recent weeks.
The offensive ends as UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband urged Afghanistan's leaders to talk to moderate Taliban members.
In a speech to Nato, Mr Miliband said a political coalition must be built which included some of the current insurgents.
The Ministry of Defence said the first stage of Operation Panther's Claw was the most heavily-militarised phase.
It ended with a final armoured thrust into former Taliban territory, clearing an area the size of the Isle of Wight.
Brig Radford said: "What we have achieved here is significant, and I am absolutely certain that the operation has been a success."