| GEO World|
| Britain mulls pullback from part of Afghan region|
| Updated at: 1201 PST, Saturday, January 09, 2010|
LONDON: Britain's military may hand control of parts of Afghanistan's Taliban-invested Helmand province to their US counterparts, the Times reported Saturday citing unnamed military officials.
The newspaper said that with the arrival of more US Marines in Afghanistan and the implementation of a new US counter-insurgency strategy, British troops might pull out of the upper Helmand valley and concentrate on the biggest population centre around Lashkar Gah.
It cited military officials as saying British commanders were ready to pull out of Musa Qala and Kajaki, home to a hydroelectric power station to which they brought a turbine in an operation in 2008.
Handing over the two districts to US troops would free up roughly 1,100 troops to patrol the centre of Helmand province, which was the initial strategy when British soldiers were first deployed there in 2006, said the Times.
However, the newspaper said there is resistance to leaving Sangin, the district that has claimed the highest number of British casualties.
The newspaper said cabinet officials have been briefed about the Helmand plans, and a decision was expected within six weeks.
Depending on the availability of US troops, the redeployment of British forces could take place in the spring, it added.
Britain has nearly 10,000 troops in Helmand province as part of the international coalition battling Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan.
A total of 108 British service personnel died in Afghanistan last year, the bloodiest year for the British military since the 1982 Falklands War. A total of 246 have been killed since operations began in 2001.