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IPFS News Link • Afghanistan

Afghans battle for strategic Helmand after U.S. troops pull out

• Reuters

The battle for Helmand contributes to a troubling security outlook for Afghanistan where the hardline Taliban, in power from 1996 to 2001, are seeking to oust foreign forces and set up an Islamic state.

While Afghan forces with U.S. air support have mostly held out this year, they will be left to battle the growing Taliban insurgency alone after most foreign troops pull out of the country at the end of the year.

Close to half of Afghanistan's opium is produced in Helmand, according to the United Nations, where yearly output rose by around a third in 2013.

Last year's bumper crop provided a financial boost to insurgents whose strongholds are in the south, while also supporting criminal networks ferrying the drug across the border with Iran.

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