06:46 GMT26 January 2021
Listen Live
    Middle East
    Get short URL
    145
    Subscribe

    Fourteen years after the 9/11 attacks that led to US President George W. Bush demanding that the Taliban hand over Osama bin Laden and the invasion of Afghanistan, the US and UK are deploying forces after the militant group made further gains against the Afghan army.

    The UK is set to urgently deploy a group of its elite SAS forces together with US special forces to assists the Afghan army after reports that the Taliban had made significant inroads into government-held territory, including the strategically important Helmand province town of Sangin.

    US and UK forces were deployed into Helmand at the start of the invasion of Afghanistan, but the UK took the main role after 2006, after the Taliban and al Qaeda had evaded the coalition forces and either escaped into neighboring Pakistan or retreated to rural or remote mountainous regions.

    Over the next decade, more than 100 UK marines and soldiers were killed around Sangin, in what were some of the bloodiest battles in the province. By the end of the last weekend, most of the town had fallen to the Taliban, including government buildings. The strategic importance of Sangin is its position between Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province, to the province's northern districts.

    ​Following the invasion, the US-led coalition forces formed the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), designed to hit back against the Taliban and al-Qaeda insurgents, who proved extremely strong opposition, with unique knowledge of the landscape — both socially and geographically.

    'Exceptionally Tough'

    After ISAF was disbanded at the end of 2014, the US and UK withdrew combat troops, but several hundred remained to support the Afghan army in maintaining stability in the region. However, according to Ambassador Matthew Rycroft of the United Kingdom Mission to the United Nations, speaking at the UN Security Council debate on Afghanistan Monday:

    "This year's fighting season has shown, making security a reality for all is exceptionally tough. The Afghan security forces and all of us face an unrelenting foe in the Taliban."

    ​​​The fact that the Afghan army is struggling against the Taliban has forced both the US and the UK to deploy more troops, but with no mandate for combat. Instead, they will provide strategic support — and, almost certainly, intelligence support.

    ​​​On Monday, around 60 US and 30 UK special forces had joined the Afghan army as it struggled to take back key areas of the town and air strikes this week are being predicted. However, the fall of Sangin met with dismay among UK veterans.

    "It is looking like all of that blood, sweat and toil could have been for nothing," Captain Doug Beattie, who earned the Military Cross during one of his three tours to Helmand told the London Times newspaper.

    ​"You have to ask yourself the question: why is it all failing? Was it all for nothing?"

    ​Major Richard Streatfield, who spent seven months in Sangin between 2009 and 2010, told the BBC it was "hugely disappointing" to see the town under threat again.

    "I won't deny, on a personal level, it does make you wonder — was it worth it?"

    Related:

    Over 50 Afghan Law Enforcement Officers Die Fighting Daesh, Taliban Daily
    Series of Explosions Hit Center of Afghanistan's Capital
    In Pentagon's Footsteps: UK to Maintain Military Presence in Afghanistan
    Tags:
    Middle East, us troops in afghanistan, deployment, military presence, military, war, troops, Afghanistan War, US Armed Forces, British army, Taliban, Afghanistan, US, United Kingdom
    Community standardsDiscussion