British troops have been redeployed to Helmand province after Afghan government forces suffered a defeat to the Taliban. Insurgents re-took much of Sangin, a town in the province where the British army previously lost over 100 soldiers.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) confirmed troops had been deployed, but insisted they would not take on a combat role and were in the country to provide support and advice to the Afghan National Army (ANA).
However, reports from the Times and the Wall Street Journal suggest British SAS and American special forces have also been deployed to help on the ground.
The Taliban offensive on Sunday and Monday comes one year after NATO troops withdrew from Afghanistan.
A spokesperson from the MoD said: “As part of the UK’s ongoing contribution to NATO’s Resolute Support Mission, a small number of UK personnel have deployed to Camp Shorabak in Helmand province in an advisory role.
“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.
“In total, the UK has around 450 troops in Afghanistan mentoring and supporting the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces and the Afghan Security Ministries.”
During the offensive, the Taliban stormed key areas of the town, including police headquarters, intelligence agency offices and administrative areas.
Afghan officials said their army is battling to regain the lost territory.
Prior to the initial withdrawal from Sangin, more than 100 British troops were killed during the fighting there. The high number of casualties prompted questions about the strategic value of the town, which sits in a remote area of the country amid valuable poppy fields.
Former NATO commander General Lord Richards of Herstmonceux told the Times Britain should be prepared to send more troops to Afghanistan if necessary.
“It is important that the West honors its commitment to protect the Afghan people as well as the memory of those who fought and died there to keep us safe from extremism.”
On Sunday, the deputy governor of Helmand, Jan Rasulyar, sent a plea to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Facebook warning a threat from the Taliban was imminent.
Since the withdrawal of British troops the Taliban have made significant advances. It is thought around 65 percent of Helmand province is under the control of insurgents.
The second battle for Sangin comes days after a Taliban suicide bomber killed six NATO soldiers in Kabul in the most deadly attack on coalition forces since August.