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U.S. To Send Troops To Afghanistan's Helmand Province


Afghan soldiers sort ammunition during an operation against Taliban militants in the Soor Guder district of Helmand Province late last year.

The United States plans to send 300 Marines to the southern Afghan Province of Helmand to help train and advise local security forces.

Brigadier General Roger Turner told journalists on January 8 that it will be the first Marine deployment to Helmand since 2014 when the United States announced the end of its combat role in Afghanistan.

Turner said Washington viewed the Helmand deployment as "a high-risk mission."

The Pentagon’s decision was swiftly welcomed by Afghan officials. "The U.S. deployment is important. This will increase our capacity in fighting terrorism," Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammad Radmanish said.

The AFP news agency quoted Rasul Zazai, an Afghan National Army spokesman in Helmand, as saying: "We really need air support in Helmand. I hope they support our air force, since we don't have enough air power in Helmand."

Local officials estimate the Taliban controls 85 percent of the poppy-growing province, up from just 20 percent a year ago.

The Taliban issued a statement the same day describing the new deployment, which will be made sometime this spring, as one of the "final failed efforts" by outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama.

U.S. and NATO-led forces formally ended their combat mission in Afghanistan at the end of 2014 but thousands of troops remain in the country, where they train and assist Afghan forces and carry out counterterrorism operations against groups like Islamic State and Al-Qaeda.

Based on reporting by AFP, AP, dpa, and Reuters