The deployment of 3 Commando Brigade, led by Brigadier Jerry Thomas, includes 42 Commando, 45 Commando, 29 Commando Royal Artillery, the Command Support Group (a dedicated logistics unit), and 800 Naval Air Squadron (which replaces 4 Squadron RAF). 3 Commando Brigade is a core component of the UK's Joint Rapid Reaction Force, and is based in the south-west of England.
16 Air Assault Brigade is returning to Britain, as originally planned, in a staged withdrawal due to be completed by the end of October. Speaking from Kandahar, UK spokesman for the British Forces, Lieutenant Colonel Andy Price, said that during their six-month tour, the troops had faced "pretty much hell".
Asked to define the threat Andy Price said simply:
"Murder, attempted murder and incitement to murder."
"We are here at the behest of the local government, assisting the Afghan National Army to bring governance to the place. On the opposite side is a considerable number of Taliban who are determined to bring this country back into a lawless state."
Andy Price said that the task faced by British servicemen and women has been "incredibly tough". The campaign has been described as the forces' most intense period of fighting since Korea. "I've no doubt that's true," he said.
Taking on the Taliban in recent months has resulted in British deaths and injuries. Lieutenant Colonel Price said the type and scale of attacks has varied depending on the location and role of units:
"At the HQ base camp in Kandahar, there have been daily rocket attacks. For those based in platoon houses, you're talking about rocket propelled grenades (RPGs) and small arms attacks. Troop transport helicopters can be attacked by RPGs and missiles. It very much depends on what you're doing."
But he pointed out that morale remains high:
"They've gone through pretty much hell at various stages of this deployment. They've lost some fine men, and very close friends and colleagues. But they've soldiered on and maintained the ethos that you would expect from 16 Air Assault Brigade."
He was keen to point out that 700-strong 3 Para is just one part of the British force. There are 4,500 British personnel in theatre, and the demands and dangers are shared with other, sometimes less obvious, units:
"Don't forget we've also got the RAF and Navy providing Harrier GR7s. We had pilots flying helicopters daily into gunfire and on the ground we have gunners, engineers and support staff, including chefs and engineers. We could not cope without any of them."
This article, by Lorraine McBride, was produced for the October 2006 issue of Focus - the newspaper for people in defence.