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Britain closes Afghan base Sterga
Britain has closed its last remaining forward base to be used by UK troops in Afghanistan.
The shut down of Observation Post Sterga means that the only UK troops still in Helmand are at Camp Bastion, which is due to close at the end of the year, and at locations in Kandahar and Kabul.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond, who was in Afghanistan to mark the latest milestone in the drawdown of UK forces, spoke to soldiers from the 4th Battalion Royal Regiment of Scotland (4 SCOTS) who had been living and working at Sterga.
He said: "The closure of our last base outside Camp Bastion is another important step towards ending combat operations in Afghanistan.
"It is also an opportunity to reflect on the mission and the hard work and sacrifice of British Forces. Their efforts have helped build a credible Afghan National Security Force and supported the emergence of a democratic Afghan state."
Sterga opened in August 2013 to enable UK personnel to observe a large and strategically important area of central Helmand. Troops based there provided vital assistance in covering UK and US base closures and gave Afghan and coalition personnel a fuller understanding of insurgent activity.
Most of the personnel based at Sterga were from the 4th Battalion 4 SCOTS with specialist capabilities provided by other units such as 5 Regiment Royal Artillery, 32 Regiment Royal Artillery, 3 Royal Horse Artillery and 14 Signals Regiment. At its peak the base was home to 180 people although by its closure this had reduced to about 90 personnel.
Commanding officer Lt Col James Roddis said: "Providing a secure environment for the redeployment of a base is vital to ensure the safety and protection of our personnel and equipment. The soldiers of the cross-coalition multi cap-badged Manoeuvre Battle Group, led by 4 SCOTS, have once again shown their ability and competence in making sure the personnel and equipment from Sterga could return safely back to Camp Bastion.
"Alongside our coalition partners we also oversaw and provided security for the closure of Laskhar Gah Durai and FOB Price in March earlier this year. As the last Scottish Infantry Battalion in Afghanistan it has been a challenging and rewarding job being part of the drawdown of British Bases in Helmand and the handover of lead security responsibilities to the Afghan Security Forces."
Shadow defence secretary Vernon Coaker said: "Our Armed Forces can be proud of the role they have played in helping Afghanistan transition to democracy and the contribution they have made to keeping people in Afghanistan and people here in Britain safe.
"As well as the combat mission, the expert training given by the British military to the Afghan National Army and police has greatly increased the capacity of those security forces and that is hugely positive legacy to leave.
"There are of course significant challenges that remain and we will continue to support the Afghan government and the people of Afghanistan to meet them."