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Afghan officials: Southern district remains in state control

“U.S. forces conducted two strikes in Sangin district, Helmand Province, December 23, against threats to the force”, U.S. Army Colonel Michael Lawhorn said.

Acting defence minister Masoom Stanekzai said fighting in the Sangin district of Helmand is continuing as army and police arrive to help security forces who have been pinned down for days.

However he said that they remained overstretched forces and needed additional global back-up, particularly close air support.

The perilous state of the Afghan National Army and President Ashraf Ghani’s government was highlighted by last weekend’s desperate plea by Helmand’s Deputy Gov. Mohammad Jan Rasulyar for supplies and reinforcements for the troops holding Sangin.

The return of British troops is poignant, as they suffered more than 100 fatalities in Sangin during their 13-year combat mission.

By mid-afternoon Wednesday, the Taliban spokesman for southern Afghanistan, Qari Yousaf Ahmadi, tweeted that “Sangin district has completely collapsed to the Taliban” and that insurgents have captured Afghan soldiers and ammunition.

“An hour later we recaptured that building and now we have it”, he told The Associated Press.

Districts across Helmand have been threatened by the Taliban in recent months.

Helmand is not the only province where the Taliban have made gains.

“It was significant because of the routes it controlled and it was a very significant part of the resourcing of the political economy of Helmand, because it is a major center of drugs processing and drugs shipping”, said Gordon.

But the Taliban still managed to seize the city of Kunduz in the north for a week in September, and now Sangin in the southwest is going. He said 12 members of the same family were killed by a roadside bomb as they were driving out of the district earlier this week, and rocket fire had landed on a house killing 17 people, including 10 children.

Lord Dannatt, former chief of the general staff, said the Government must think “long and hard” about any expansion of the UK’s role as it balances other military demands while operating with a smaller Army.

However, this year they have attacked Helmand as well as the capital Kabul. It also led to deep fissures in the group’s leadership, further muddying the waters about just who the Afghan government should be talking to when the time comes.

“The problem is where the Afghan forces have to fend for themselves”, he said.

Rapidly unravelling security in Helmand, where British troops spent eight years trying to provide security, has forced the Ministry of Defence to send military advisers back to the province.

“This is an issue that has to be clear in the negotiating process”, Muzhda said.

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