KABUL (AFP) - Britain on Monday announced the end of a bloody offensive against the Taliban in southern Afghanistan, as elders elsewhere in the nation struck a truce with the militants to smooth August elections. A surge in violence in recent weeks has widened concerns about security for the elections, with thousands of British and US troops battling to wrest back southern insurgent strongholds with the clock ticking before polling day. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown-who has been forced to defend the countrys Afghan policies as foreign troop casualties here soar-on Monday claimed success in their Operation Panthers Claw in Helmand province. The efforts of our troops in Helmand have been nothing short of heroic. There has been a tragic human cost. But this has not been in vain, he said. What we have actually done is make land secure for about 100,000 people. What weve done is push back the Taliban-and what weve done also is to start to break that chain of terror that links the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan to the streets of Britain. A Ministry of Defence spokeswoman told AFP that the first phase of the operation in the harsh southern desert was complete, with troops now focusing on holding ground and then bringing development to the province. Brigadier Tim Radford, commander of Task Force Helmand, said that the 3,000 British-led troops inflicted significant losses on Taliban extremists in the operation launched in late June. The deal puts local leaders in charge, allows authorities to set up election offices and candidates on the presidential and provincial council ballots to begin campaigning, he said. The Afghan army commander for western Afghanistan, General Jalandar Shah Behnam, said the military had withdrawn from compounds captured from militants in the three districts. Afghan media quoted a local militant, who claimed to represent the group, as confirming the agreement. But a main Taliban spokesmen, Yousuf Ahmadi, denied the deal. With the government, we have no ceasefire, he told AFP.