UK & World News
Afghanistan: Last UK Troops Leave Nad-e Ali Base
The last remaining British base in Afghanistan's Nad-e Ali district has closed, marking the end of six years in the area for UK forces and a major chapter in military history.
Nad-e Ali has been one of the most violent districts in the conflict. A total of 52 British soldiers lost their lives fighting the Taliban there, as did many Afghan soldiers, policemen and civilians.
Sky News was the last television news organisation to travel to Nad-e Ali and witnessed the final days of British occupation.
At the height of the insurgency, there were 55 British bases in the danger zone in Helmand Province. The final one to close was Camp Shawqat just on the edge of Nad-e Ali's main bazaar.
Over the summer, the 2nd Battalion, The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment was based in Shawqat.
Their role was to maintain security in the area and assist local forces when needed, while at the same time packing up the camp
The regiment's commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Neil Unsworth, said: "We've paid a heavy price here I think in Nad-e Ali. It's one of the places that people remember.
"So certainly from my perspective, at least by seeing what's been gained here and the state of things now, makes me feel that things weren't in vain and we're very pleased with the gains that have been made."
The closure of all the bases required a considerable logistical and security operation.
Long convoys of armoured vehicles and lorries, known as Combat Logistic Patrols, travelled from Camp Bastion to load up the equipment.
Essentially, they are heavily protected military removal men, moving house in a war zone.
In the case of Camp Shawqat, eight patrols - each of around 40 vehicles - had to drive the 20 or so miles from Camp Bastion.
Not far, but it takes more than four hours because of the potential for improvised explosive devices (IED) and small arms fire.
Captain Tony Brooks, of 2nd Lancs, said: "We had everything a small village had, from post rooms to running water to showers and we slowly then had to withdraw all this.
"It's basically like moving a small village from one place in Helmand back to Camp Bastion."
Chinook helicopters working in rotation moved the last remaining soldiers out of the base and the district.
The move from Nad-e Ali is a significant step in the UK's plans for a complete withdrawal of combat forces by the end of 2014.
The security situation in the district is considerably better than it was even a matter of months ago and it would appear to be improving all the time.
Afghan soldiers and police work together now and take the lead in operations. It has been a deliberate tactic by the British to sit in the background for some months, providing a support role only.
The purpose of this approach was to create an atmosphere similar to how it will be now they have left completely.
Nevertheless, patrol bases are shot at by the Taliban daily and the casualty rate among Afghans is phenomenally high.
One might argue that now the hard fought gains are starting to show, it is too soon for the British to leave.
Some suggest they should stay, consolidate the progress, and see off the Taliban completely.
But there is a confidence that the Afghan forces are willing, but more importantly able, to maintain and improve the security of the region now. That will be judged in time.
Because when is the right time for an occupying force to leave an area? When does the moment come to say enough is enough?
That decision carries a lot of emotional responsibility. To the Afghans, to the soldiers who have served there and to everybody who has lost a life in Nad-e Ali.