Battle for Sangin: British troops deploy to Helmand as Taliban advance

The deployment comes a year after the US-led Nato coalition formally ended its combat mission


Afp December 23, 2015
An Afghan National Army soldier keeps watch during an ongoing battle with Taliban militants in the Nad Ali district of Helmand on Tuesday. PHOTO: AFP

KANAHAR: Military planes on Tuesday dropped food and ammunition to besieged Afghan forces in Sangin after Taliban insurgents captured large swathes of the opium-growing southern district, as British military advisers were deployed to the region.

The militants broke through the frontlines of the strategic district on Sunday after days of fierce clashes, tightening their grip on the volatile province of Helmand.

Fleeing local residents reported bloody gunfights as the Taliban advanced on the district centre, highlighting a worsening security situation across Afghanistan a year after Nato formally ended its combat operations.

"We are air-dropping food supplies, military equipment and ammunition to support our forces in Sangin," defence ministry spokesman Mohammad Radmanesh told AFP. "Sporadic fighting is going on around the district," he said, rejecting reports of high military casualties and asserting that the district had not fallen to the Taliban.

A resident who fled Sangin told AFP that insurgents had publicly executed at least three security officials after storming government buildings.

"The Taliban dragged two intelligence officials and a local police commander from their homes and shot them dead," Haji Abdul Qader told AFP. "Only the governor's compound and the police headquarters are under government control. The rest have been overrun by the Taliban."

Qader said he fled to the Helmand provincial capital Lashkar Gah after a mortar bomb landed on his house, wounding his infant son and daughter. His testimony bore chilling similarities to the situation in Kunduz after the Taliban briefly captured the northern city in September -- their most spectacular victory in 14 years of war.

Highlighting the gravity of the situation in Sangin, long seen as a hornet's nest of insurgent activity, Britain on Tuesday said its troops had been deployed in Helmand. A statement from the British defence ministry did not specify the number deployed, but insisted they would play an ‘advisory role’ and not engage in combat.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 23rd, 2015.

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