Sources reveal that Taliban insurgents have killed at least 15 Afghan policemen when they overran two checkpoints in the Helmand province on Tuesday, increasig pressure on the beleaguered provincial capital of Lashkar Gah.
The attack on checkpoints in Gereshk, on the main highway through Helmand, a few kilometres to the north of the governor's compound in Lashkar Gah, and Nad Ali, to the west of the town, underlined the growing pressure on security forces clinging on in the southern province.
Helmand, a Taliban heartland and the biggest source of Afghanistan's opium, has been under pressure for months, with government forces pulling out of several districts to regroup around Lashkar Gah.
The province is one of the key battlegrounds for the Taliban, who launched a spring offensive last month, vowing to drive out the Western-backed
"If the government does not act soon, there will be a disaster," said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
After briefly capturing the northern city of Kunduz last year, the insurgents seem determined to gain control of a province to use as a base for their campaign.
Hundreds of American troops were sent to Helmand this year to bolster its defence with a beefed up training and advisory mission but a promised offensive by Afghan forces has not materialized.
British and US forces have struggled for years to control Helmand and many of the more than 450 British servicemen and women killed in Afghanistan lost their lives there.