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The upcoming fighting season in Afghanistan will be the most important of the nearly 12-year campaign so far, said British Army Brigadier Stuart Skeates, who is currently serving as deputy commander of the US Marine Corps' 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, on Thursday. Speaking to reporters in Washington, D.C., Skeates said this is because Afghan security forces now have the lead for security responsibility throughout most of the country's provinces, in particular Helmand province. "For the first time, Afghans are in charge of their own destiny," he said. Thus far, progress has been encouraging, as the Afghans are conducting their own planning and some operations, said Skeates during the April 18 meeting. However, the Afghans still rely on the coalition in areas like medical support, he said. "One of the key capabilities which we have got to get right for them is their medical capability," said Skeates. That task will be a "long-term effort" to build up those skills and "from the bottom up" so that wounded Afghan troops have a better chance of recovery and returning to the battlefield, he said. The Afghan also need to beef up their capabilities for medical evacuation, countering improvised explosive devices, precision fire, and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, he said.