Defence Secretary pays New Year visit to troops in Afghanistan

Defence Secretary Liam Fox has made his first visit to Afghanistan in 2011 to focus on the progress being made towards handing over security responsibility to the Afghan government.
Accompanied by the Attorney General Dominic Grieve QC and Foreign Minister Alistair Burt during his three-day visit to the country Dr Fox visited Mazar-e-Sharif in Balkh Province as well as speaking to British troops in Helmand and holding meetings with President Karzai and Afghan ministers in Kabul.
In Helmand he saw the hard work being carried out by British troops and had meetings with General Richard Mills, Commander of RC-(SW), Brigadier James Chiswell, Commander of Task Force Helmand, Brigadier Alister Davies, Commander of Joint Force Support Afghanistan and Michael O’Neil Head of the UK led Provincial Reconstruction Team. Dr Fox also saw the work being done in Mazar-e-Sharif by the Swedish-led Provincial Reconstruction Team and German forces who lead RC (North) to bring security and stability to the local area.
Dr Fox said: "I have seen on this visit that the threat from the insurgency across Afghanistan is constantly being reduced, security improved and the economic life of the country is beginning to come back. People are beginning to see that we are serious not only about protecting them but ensuring their well being and prosperity."
The Defence Secretary also met with his Afghan counterpart Defence Minister General Wardak, Helmand Governor Mangal, and President Karzai to discuss issues including detention, transition and development of Afghan National Security Forces.
He added: "In my meetings with President Karzai and his ministers I have made it very clear that Britain will remain a close and reliable partner to Afghanistan for many years to come. We will continue to support Afghanistan politically, economically and militarily after ISAF transfers responsibility to the Afghans in 2014."
"We are serious about diminishing the threat to our own national security by ensuring that Al Qaeda and their partners will never again have a safe haven in Afghanistan. And we are determined to leave Afghanistan and the region in a safer and more stable state than we found it. There’s no doubt that our forces have done a tremendous job towards accomplishing this goal with courage and professionalism."
"This is the first winter with the surge fully in place and it’s crucial that we make a difference in degrading the insurgency's capability. We need to do it while they’re vulnerable - that is a key aim of our forces in Helmand this winter. We now need to be patient and let the strategy run its course."
"The new Government is fully committed to ensuring what our Armed Forces do here in Helmand is successful. 2011 is likely to be just as difficult as 2010 but progress is being made and we are heading in the right direction. British Armed Forces are amongst the bravest and best in the world and the whole country owes them a debt of gratitude for the dangerous work they carry out each and everyday."