ITV News in Afghanistan:The US troops helping to turn tide against Taliban in Helmand Province

Martin Geissler

Former ITV News Correspondent

ITV News has travelled to Helmand Province in Afghanistan to witness the work of US marines, who have been helping Afghan forces to stabilise the area.

The Taliban strengthened its grip on the region after coalition withdrawals in 2014 but, after US troops returned to Helmand to train and advise the Afghan Army and provide air support, officials now believe they are clawing back ground from the insurgents.

Walking through what was once Camp Bastion is an eerie experience.

The last time I was here, in 2011, it was a bustling military metropolis.

Almost 10,000 troops were based within its heavily fortified walls. A city in the Helmand sand.

Today, it’s a ghost town. A museum to the big British push into this part of Afghanistan.

Exploring the base with a patrol of US marines, we found parts of it almost completely intact.

The desert wind has taken its toll, ragged tent awnings flap in the breeze.

But in the accommodation blocks, we found beds left exactly as they were, some with sheets neatly folded. Coat-hangers still sit on the wardrobe rails.

To look at this place you’d think the British army got out in a hurry.

That’s not the case - the draw-down in 2014 was carefully planned.

But every senior military figure I’ve spoken to since I arrived here 10 days ago agrees the coalition left here with the job half done.

Almost as soon as British and American troops pulled out, the Taliban filled the void.

Camp Bastion was once home to 10,000 troops.

By the start of this year they controlled all but a few pockets of Helmand.

They were at the gates of Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital, which came within a whisker of falling completely.

An embattled Afghan Army, under equipped and under trained, struggled to hold off the insurgents.

With the exception of a small cadre of special forces they were losing the fight badly.

US marines are helping the Afghan Army.

Britain and America have an investment in this place, emotional as well as financial.

More than 450 British soldiers lost their lives in Helmand. The United States lost more than 2000 troops in the fight.

Both countries agree they can’t let defeat be the legacy to their fallen troops.

And they’re both driven by, perhaps, a bigger common purpose, too: if Afghanistan falls to the Taliban, they believe, it would quickly become a hub for the extremist groups who export terror to our streets.

The Americans are providing support from the sky. Credit: ITV News

So now there are American boots back on Helmand’s dusty soil.

Not many, and they’re not fighting, but the US Marine units who’ve come here have made a big difference.

They’re training and advising the Afghan Army. They’re also, crucially, providing support from the sky.

American air strikes combined with a newly galvanised Afghan fighting force are starting to make a difference.

The Taliban are, we’re told, on the back foot once again.

There’s definitely a rosy tint to the American message.

The Afghan troops still complain they’re under-equipped and the fighting is fierce in places.

But in a conflict awash with statistics, they do take pride in the fact that the insurgents haven’t taken a single provincial capital in Afghanistan this year.

Perhaps a corner is being turned in this conflict. In briefings with US top brass it certainly feels that way.

But without their help the picture here would be very different. And even with it, there’s still a long way to go.