Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Brigadier’s Afghanistan peace goal

By Calum Ross

A Black Watch commander has vowed to help the people of Afghanistan find a lasting solution after taking charge of 9,000 UK and coalition troops in Helmand province.

Brigadier James Cowan, from Edinburgh, took over the command of British forces in Helmand during a handover ceremony at the British Army’s regional headquarters in Lashkar Gah.

It marked the transfer of authority to Brig Cowan’s 11 Light Brigade and brought to an end 19 Light Brigade’s six-month tour of the country, during which it suffered 70 deaths.

Brig Cowan, of the Black Watch, 3rd Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland, said the theme of the tour would be consolidation in the centre of Helmand and close co-operation with Afghan allies. “We have been preparing for this operation for two years and are looking forward to the challenge,” he added.

“We aim to emulate the success of 19 Brigade, which has done a magnificent job.

"It is in all our interests that we succeed. Only the people of Afghanistan can provide the lasting solution. We will do everything we can to help achieve this goal.

“To this end, we will consolidate our close relationship with our friends in the US Marine Corps and our civilian counterparts in the provincial reconstruction team, in order to bring prosperity to the people of Helmand.”

The 11 Light Brigade’s tour ends in April 2010.

Once a guard of Adolf Hitler's imprisoned Nazi party deputy Rudolf Hess, Brig Cowan took command of the Black Watch in July 2003.

He was deployed to Iraq, fighting in Basra and Al Amarah in 2004 during the Shi’ite uprising, and was made an OBE in 2005.

Now in his mid-40s, Brig Cowan takes over from the commander of 19 Light Brigade, Brigadier Tim Radford, who said: “The efforts of every soldier in 19 Brigade this summer have helped to deliver security and governance in Helmand.

“I want them to be remembered for the courage, fortitude and resolve they have shown in the harshest operational environment.

“They have been tested to the extreme and they have delivered.

"We have suffered 70 fatalities plus many more personnel with life-changing injuries.

“Every loss cuts deeply and we will never forget those who made the ultimate sacrifice. We will continue to support those individuals and all the families.”

The weekend’s handover ceremony coincided with the transfer of the UK civilian head of the mission in Helmand.

Hugh Powell, who is in charge of the provincial reconstruction team, handed over to his successor Lindy Cameron.

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