A senior Afghan official took the unusual step of using Facebook to implore the President to send help to his beleaguered province yesterday, 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 members of the security forces were killed in the past month fighting insurgents, and hundreds had been killed in the past six months. He said he was unable to make direct contact with the President by other means.

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, according to the "train, assist, advise" mandate adopted by Nato this year.

For months, Taliban fighters have been taking over districts in Helmand as the war has intensified. Army and police have been able to take back most of the districts, but the fighting has depleted the security forces. "Unless the government acts now we will lose the province," Mr Rasulyar said in the Facebook post.

The Afghan Ministry of Defence had no comment on the letter, saying its internet access was not working yesterday 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.

AP

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