Afghan official uses Facebook to ask president for help in Helmand
A senior Afghan official has taken the unusual step of using Facebook to implore the president to send help to his beleaguered province, saying that without assistance the area could fall to the Taliban.
Mohammad Jan Rasulyar, the deputy governor of Helmand province, tagged president Ashraf Ghani in a Facebook post that said more than 90 security forces have been killed in the past month fighting insurgents, and hundreds killed in the past six months.
He said he was unable to make direct contact with the president by other means.
In his open letter to Mr Ghani, he wrote: "Your Excellency, Facebook is not the right forum for speaking with you, but as my voice hasn't been heard by you I don't know what else to do.
"Please save Helmand from tragedy. Ignore those liars who are telling you that Helmand is secure."
He detailed problems with logistics and evacuation of wounded personnel, and noted that foreign forces only observe, as mandated by the "train, assist, advise" mandate that Nato adopted this year.
For months, Taliban fighters have been attacking and taking over districts in Helmand. Army and police have been able to take back most of the districts, but the fighting has exhausted and depleted the security forces.
"Unless the government acts now we will lose the province," Mr Rasulyar said in the Facebook post.
He later told the Associated Press: "I can't hold my tongue anymore."
Helmand is a pivotal Taliban base as it produces most of the world's opium, with the proceeds helping fund the 14-year insurgency. Strategically important districts including Nawzad, Sangin and Gereshk have been seriously threatened by insurgents seeking to keep open distribution routes for men, arms, drugs and other lucrative contraband.
The ministry of defence had no comment on Mr Rasulyar's letter to Mr Ghani, saying its internet was not working due to technical problems.
Mr Ghani's deputy spokesman Zafar Hashemi said the president was aware of the Facebook post and had met with the national security council and was up to date with the situation in Helmand.
Mr Ghani took office last year pledging to bring peace and prosperity to the war-torn country. But his plans to bring the Taliban into a peace dialogue with the government soured after the July announcement that the group's founder Mullah Mohammad Omar had been dead for more than two years.
Since his deputy, Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, took over leadership in August the war has intensified and prospects for peace have diminished.
The Pentagon released a report last week predicting a worsening security situation in 2016 as "a resilient Taliban-led insurgency remains an enduring threat to US, coalition and Afghan forces, as well as to the Afghan people".