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UUP man says Nato must step up after British troops sent back to Afghanistan

By Allan Preston

Published 23/12/2015

Former Army captain Doug Beattie
Former Army captain Doug Beattie

British special forces have been sent to Afghanistan after the Taliban threatened to capture the strategically important town of Sangin.

The settlement in southern Helmand province has become a modern day Waterloo for British forces after 100 troops lost their lives there.

Many routes can be controlled from the town and the area is also known as a key part of the Afghan drugs trade.

For many in Afghanistan, the town has also become a symbol of Western intervention.

It is expected that a relatively small amount of British personnel, around 10, are to be deployed, mainly acting in an advisory role.

Former Army captain Doug Beattie, now a UUP councillor, has served in Afghanistan.

He said he was concerned there could be a domino effect if Sangin is captured.

"The reality is that if we do let Helmand fall district by district, then Afghanistan will fall province by province and we can't allow that to happen.

"Nato really does have to step up here and come up with a solution to help the Afghans."

He also warned he was worried much of the positive work in the area could be undone.

"An awful lot of blood, sweat and toil went into Afghanistan," he said.

"It wasn't all fighting - it was an awful lot of construction and development and building schools and sinking wells for fresh water. But you look at [what's happened] and you say to yourself, 'This is absolutely gut-wrenching that this was all to be lost'."

Mr Beattie praised the progress of the Afghan national army, but said they still needed help.

"They absolutely have the will to fight," he added.

"There's nobody running away here, throwing their arms down here and legging it.

"They're taking more casualties than the UK forces ever did.

"The biggest problem with the Afghan army is they do not understand logistics, they do not understand how to rotate soldiers out of a combat zone, to resupply their soldiers, how to get battlefield casualties away and replacements brought in.

"Logistics is a huge key. They also need the close air support that we had."

Dr Stuart Gordon from the Chatham House think tank blamed the withdrawal of Western forces from Afghanistan for the Taliban assault.

"I am not sure it is such an enormous resurgence," he said.

"The Taliban were strong and very present even when the British and Americans were in Helmand, so take away the British and American presence and this is almost inevitably the result."

"Another reason is the economic struggle the country is enduring.

"As a result of 140,000 troops leaving the country and the amount of donor money being reduced, the country's economy has stalled and there is a continuing political crisis in the provinces."

Clifford Warren, whose son Marine Paul Warren was killed by an improvised explosive device in Sangin while serving with 40 Commando in 2010, supports the return of UK troops, provided they do not go with "their hands tied behind their backs".

He said: "I'd find it intolerable and incomprehensible if troops were sent in again with their hands tied behind their backs.

"The hearts and minds principle didn't work last time, and it won't work now.

"The Taliban don't follow any rules and we follow all of them - and that puts the soldiers in danger every time."

Paul Warren (23) was on his second tour of Afghanistan in 2010 when his patrol base came under fire. His father urged the British Army to be "more forceful with the Afghan authorities to identify the Taliban and push them into a corner until they surrender".

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