'Progress signs' in Afghanistan

Other News Materials 13 April 2008 09:38 (UTC +04:00)

The former British commander in Afghanistan has said there were "real signs of progress" there. ( BBC )

Brigadier Andrew MacKay, commander of 52 Infantry Brigade, returned to the UK after six months heading operations in the Helmand province.

His troops were responsible for recapturing the strategic town of Musa Q'alah from the Taleban.

He said: "There's a greater level of security, people are returning to their towns."

"Musa Q'alah was iconic for all the wrong reasons, because the Taleban were in control," he said.

"We're now trying to make it iconic for the right reasons - reconstruction and development."

Brig MacKay, who was in charge of some 7,000 troops in Helmand, said most soldiers had been involved in work such as building schools and refurbishing mosques.

He said: "There's now a school, with about 800 kids going to that school, and there's not been a school in Musa Q'alah for many, many years.

"We're trying to show the people they have a better chance this way than with the Taleban."

But he added: "Often the real improvement they want is security."

In the six months he was in Helmand, 10 British soldiers were killed.

He said: "There are parts of Helmand where our operating bases haven't been attacked for two or three months, so real signs of progress."

"Of course there is an awful long way to go, but as long as we keep making that progress we will succeed."

Brig MacKay, who was in Helmand when Prince Harry was deployed there, praised the prince, saying: "He was just doing his job, like everyone else. I think that's why he enjoyed it as much as he did."