The final United States Marine Corps command and service members from the United Kingdom have departed Regional Command (Southwest) in Helmand province, Afghanistan, Oct. 27.
The lift-off followed an End of Operations ceremony held at the former command post of Marine Expeditionary Brigade – Afghanistan aboard Camp Leatherneck, signifying the transfer of Camps Bastion and Leatherneck to the control of the Afghan National Army’s 215th Corps. Regional Command (Southwest) is the first of the International Security Assistance Force commands to transfer authority to the Afghan National Security Forces as ISAF moves toward the Resolute Support Mission.
During the past year, six additional nations ended their operations in RC(SW), including Bosnia, Estonia, Denmark, Georgia, Jordan and Tonga.
“This transfer is a sign of progress. It’s not about the coalition. It is really about the Afghans and what they have achieved over the last 13 years. What they have done here is truly significant,” Marine Expeditionary Brigade – Afghanistan Commander Brigadier General Daniel D. Yoo said during the ceremony.
During his speech, Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, commander of ISAF Joint Command, stated, “We lift off confident in the Afghans’ ability to secure the region. The mission has been complex, difficult and dangerous. Everyone has made tremendous sacrifices—but those sacrifices have not been in vain.”
International Security Assistance Force Commander General Joseph Campbell stated, “Helmand, as you know, has been a very, very tough area. We feel very confident with the Afghan security forces as they continue to grow in their capacity and they continue to work better between the police and the army.”
Following the completion of the tactical withdrawal from Camps Bastion and Leatherneck, the Marines, sailors and British service members flew to Kandahar Airfield where they will complete their deployment prior to returning to the United States and the United Kingdom during the coming weeks.