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'Exhausted' Afghan troops fighting Taliban in south 'need reinforcements'

Afghan troops fighting the Taliban across most of southern Helmand province desperately need reinforcements, security officials have said.

Provincial police chief General Abdul Rahman Sarjang said that government forces are also facing serious challenges in Helmand's capital, Lashkar Gah.

He said the Afghan forces "are exhausted" and need reinforcements. He also warned that a lack of coordination between the army and police is hampering progress in the fight.

He said the Taliban are making serious stands in seven districts - Sangin, Gereshk, Khanashin, Musa Qala, Nawzad, Washer and Marjah - and that at least three districts of the capital are also under threat.

Helmand is a strategic region for the Taliban. It borders Pakistan and grows opium, the raw material for most of the world's heroin.

General Sarjang added: " We need fresh police and soldiers because our men have been fighting for the last month or two."

Afghan police fight on the front line across Afghanistan, often without the equipment and back-up of the army, which means casualties are higher.

General Sarjang said he was in contact with central authorities in Kabul and was confident fresh reinforcements would be deployed soon.

Taliban gunmen have been targeting districts across Helmand for weeks, stunning government forces that have been under-prepared, under-manned and under-equipped, according to civil and military officials.

Sangin district was besieged for weeks until the ferocity of the fight in late December sparked fears that it could fall to the insurgents. The United States conducted airstrikes on Taliban positions, the UK rushed special forces advisers to the area, and the Afghan military dropped food and ammunition to soldiers and police who were surrounded in their base.

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