KABUL, Afghanistan - The United Kingdom has now completed the pullout of combat troops from Afghanistan with the British Camp Bastion handed over to Afghan security forces Sunday. The adjoining US Camp Leatherneck took part in the handover ceremony.
The ceremony marks the end of British combat operations in the country, with the death toll from the Afghan war for the two allies standing at 2,802 2,349 on the US side and 453 on for the UK.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron said Britain would never forget those who had died serving their country. "I made a commitment that I would get our Armed Forces out of Afghanistan by 2015 and today sees the end of combat operations in the country," he said. "We will always remember the courage of those who served in Afghanistan on our behalf and never forget those who made the ultimate sacrifice."
The Afghan Defense Ministry welcomed the handover and pointed out that the UK, following the US, has significantly decreased its combat operations in the country dyring the past two years. "Afghan security forces have been leading the fight in ground operations in the country for two years now," said the spokesperson.
British forces, which eventually numbered more than 140,000 personnel in the country, were part of a US-led coalition which toppled the ruling Taliban in 2001 in response to the 9/11 attacks in New York.
Camp Bastion, in Helmand province, has been the UK troops' main Afghan base since 2006. At the time it opened, the British government said its forces would be there to protect the reconstruction of the country. Instead, they got drawn ever deeper into the newly-installed government's struggle against the Taliban - which continues to fight and has carried out attacks in recent weeks.
Helmand's Provincial Governor Naim Baluch said Afghanistan was grateful for Britain's "courage and commitment", adding that British forces and their allies had improved security in the country. Baluch said Afghans were now "ready to deliver security ourselves".
UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said Sunday that Britain would continue to support the Afghan National Army Officer Academy through "institutional" guidance and development aid, but said the UK would not re-deploy combat forces in the country "under any circumstances".