Taliban claims to have taken strategically important lands in Afghanistan

Britain sends military as Taliban threaten town

Newstalk, Taliban, Afghanistan, opium, drug-trafficking, UK, Britain, Ministry of Defence

File photo: British soldiers in Sangin stop and search a man, as they assist local forces (2009). Picture by: Danny Lawson / PA Wire/Press Association Images

British military personnel have been deployed to a key town amid claims the Taliban is now in control of around 65% of Helmand province.

The UK's Ministry of Defence said the group would not take any combat role and would provide only advisory support to help local forces as they fight to take control of Sangin.

The strategically important town was the scene of fierce fighting during the Afghan campaign, with more than 100 British troops dying in and around it.

In total the UK has around 450 troops in Afghanistan.

After months of heavy fighting insurgents have taken back large parts of Helmand province, which had been controlled by mostly British forces before their withdrawal more than a year ago.

The head of Helmand's provincial council, Muhammad Kareem Atal, said about 65% of the region is now under Taliban control.

"In every district either we are stepping back or we are handing territory over to Taliban," he said.

Helmand is an important base for the Taliban, as it's home to most of the world's opium trade, which they use to fund their conflict.

Foreign affairs editor Sam Kiley says there is also a great deal of concern that if the Taliban switches allegiance to Islamic State, which is making inroads in Afghanistan, the multi-billion pound trade will fall into IS' hands.

On Monday six US troops were killed in a suicide attack near Bagram Airfield.