Saturday, October 10, 2009
A new brigade and commander are taking over UK military operations in Helmand, after the bloodiest tour since the mission began eight years ago.
The 19 Light Brigade is returning home, having lost 70 men during six months of fighting the Taliban.
They are being replaced by 11 Light Brigade, which has been formed specifically for Helmand.
The new brigade is smaller than the one it replaces, meaning some troops have had to extend their tour in Helmand.
The new brigade includes units from across the UK, and will be made up of the Household Cavalry, the 1st Battalion the Grenadier Guards, the 1st Battalion the Royal Welsh, 2nd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment, the 3rd Battalion the Rifles, and the 1 Royal Horse Artillery.
It will also include a specialist counter-IED taskforce to help guard against improvised explosive devices.
The new commander of Task Force Helmand, Brigadier James Cowan, is taking over from Brigadier Tim Radford in a simple ceremony at the British headquarters in Lashkar Gah on Saturday.
Several of Brigadier Radford's soldiers died during Operation Panther's Claw ahead of the Afghan elections in August.
Two soldiers from the new brigade have already been killed during the past week.
BBC defence correspondent Caroline Wyatt says that Brigadier Cowan led his old regiment, the Black Watch, in one of the most dangerous areas of Iraq four years ago, and his forces here will try to move the emphasis away from fighting, towards more reconstruction and winning the support of Afghan civilians.
The UK civilian head of the mission in Helmand - diplomat Hugh Powell, who is in charge of the provincial reconstruction team - will also hand over to his successor.