British military personnel have been deployed to Afghanistan just three days before Christmas.
Reports suggest that the Taliban is close to taking the town of Sangin in Helmand province just months after British forces withdrew all combat troops.
The MOD has said that a small number of personnel has been sent to Camp Shorabak in Helmand but will not be deployed outside of the camp. Apparently the troops will only be providing an “advisory role” to the Afghan National Army and will not be engaged in any direct combat roles. They will form part of a wider Nato team on the ground bade up of 12,000 troops.
Although UK combat operations in Afghanistan ended in October last year after 13 years of military engagement in the country, approximately 450 troops remain military training and advisory roles, which could increase if the Taliban offensive continues to advance.
A spokesperson for the MoD said the troops were being deployed as part of the UK’s “ongoing contribution” to Nato’s Resolute Support mission.
Sangin is a strategically significant town linking Lashkar Gah (the capital of Helmand province) to the northern districts of Helmand. If the Taliban succeed in controlling Sangin it would increase their mobility and enable them to sever vital supply lines used by the Afghan Forces. In addition, Sangin is a notorious area of opium production and distribution, meaning potential drug trade revenue could further fund the Taliban’s advances.
Governor Rahimi (the Governor of Helmand) has expressed disappointment that Taliban fighters are so easily able to take the town back following the withdrawal of foreign troops from Helmand and questions if it undermines the entire conflict. He told the BBC “I won’t deny, on a personal level, it does make you wonder – was it worth it?”
“Because if the people we were trying to free Afghanistan from are now able to just take it back within two years, that shows that something went badly wrong at the operational and strategic level.”
Image credit: MOD Defence Images OGL: A Paratrooper from 3 Para stumbles and recovers whilst underfire during Operation Oqab Tsuka in Afghanistan. Meanwhile another soldier provides return fire from an opening in the compound, as the empty cartridges from his rifle fly through the air. Operation Oqab Tsuka was of vital importance providing a hydro-electric turbine to the dam at Kajaki in Helmand Province.