UK troops back in Helmand
An Afghan National Army soldier speaks on a radio at an outpost in Helmand province, REUTERS/Abdul Malik

Just over a year after the UK ended its combat operations in Afghanistan, the UK is sending back military personnel to Afghanistan's Helmand province on fears that the Taliban is close to overrunning the Sangin town.

The Ministry of Defence has confirmed that a small number of personnel had been sent to Camp Shorabak in Helmand in an "advisory role." The Ministry stressed that the military personnel will not be involved in combat and are part of a larger Nato team.

Although the UK pulled its troops from combat duties in Afghanistan last year, around 450 troops still remain in the country but in mentoring and support capacities. A spokeswoman for the MoD said the UK troops were being deployed as part of the UK's "ongoing contribution" to Nato's Resolute Support Mission.

"These personnel are part of a larger Nato team which is providing advice to the Afghan National Army. They are not deployed in a combat role and will not deploy outside the camp," she said.

Separately, The Times reports that up to 60 US Special Forces, together with at least one British SAS unit of about 30 soldiers, are working together with the Afghan army to take control of the Sangin town. It is believed that most parts of the town has already fallen into the hands of the Taliban following a siege over the weekend.

The MoD has declined to comment on any operations involving the SAS. Reinforcements promised by the Afghan government has yet to arrive to boost allied troops at Sangin. "It's a bad situation. American special operations troops are heavily engaged," a source told The Times.

It is believed that Sangin became vulnerable after the US-led coalition decided to focus on training and helping Afghan forces in six locations which did not include the Helmand province. "The Taliban can choose where they focus their offensives and right now they are putting on a power play in Helmand," a source told The Times.

News that the town is close to or could have already fallen into the hands of the Taliban has been met with anger and dismay by British troops who had served in Afghanistan, as well as family members who had lost loved ones in the conflict.

Captain Doug Beattie, who was awarded the Military Cross during one of his three tours to Helmand said: "It is looking like all of that blood, sweat and toil could have been for nothing. You have to ask yourself the question: Why is it all failing? Was it all for nothing?"

The newspaper noted that Sangin symbolised Britain's campaign in Afghanistan. More than 100 British soldiers died in and around the town during fighting with the Taliban for more than a decade. Responsibility for Sangin was handed over to the US in 2010. Nato ended its combat mission in Afghanistan in 2014.

The BBC pointed out that Afghan refugees are now the second largest category of asylum seekers in Europe. It said both Nato and the US may have to "rethink the scope of their mission with some urgency."