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UK deploys military to Afghanistan Helmand province in 'advisory role'

Britain's Ministry of Defense (MoD) has confirmed that troops have been deployed to Helmand in southern Afghanistan. The move follows calls for support after Taliban insurgents overran most of the province's districts.

UK newspaper "The Times," reported on Tuesday that among the troops were around 30 members of the elite Special Air Service (SAS) who had been sent to "engage" against the Taliban alongside up to 60 US troops. The MoD said, however, that the unit would not participate in fighting and had been deployed in an "advisory role."

"These personnel are part of a larger NATO team, which is providing advice to the Afghan National Army," an MoD spokeswoman said, adding that they are "not deployed in a combat role and will not deploy outside the camp."

Fears over fall of Helmand

The arrival of British troops in Helmand province followed calls for help from local officials, who said

only two of the province's 16 districts remained free of Taliban

activity, with the Helmand capital, Sangin, on the brink of falling to insurgents.

British and US forces previously struggled for years to control Helmand province, where more than 450 British servicemen and women killed in fighting.

Razia Baluch, a member of the Helmand provincial council warned that Helmand risked falling to the Taliban if the Afghan government failed to act.

"We plead with the government to not let this be another Kunduz, because if Helmand falls, it will not be nearly as easy to recapture as Kunduz was," Baluch warned.

Taliban militants held Kunduz for several days in late September, before government troops wrested back control.

NATO presence

Despite ending its combat operations in Afghanistan in 2014, Britain still has around 450 troops on the ground in Afghanistan. Their aim is to mentor and support the Afghan army and security forces.

The Afghan government - backed by billions of dollars in international aid and training assistance from thousands of NATO troops still stationed in Afghanistan - is also pushing to re-open talks with the Taliban

ksb/jm (Reuters, dpa)

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