Story highlights

Troops withdrew from Musa Qala and Nawzad over the weekend

Head of local provincial council calls move irresponsible and will lead to further losses

Kabul CNN  — 

Afghan troops have pulled out of parts of Helmand province, the site of some of the fiercest fighting in the long battle against Taliban forces, according to an Afghan government spokesman.

A senior military official said troops withdrew from the districts of Nawzad and Musa Qala over the weekend in what he called a “tactical” move that could be reversed any time.

Omar Zwak, spokesman for Helmand governor Mirza Khan Rahimi, told CNN Monday that it would help Afghan troops in other areas.

Helmand province is where thousands of British and U.S. troops fought against the resurgent Taliban before their official withdrawal at the end of 2014.

Criticism from local leader

The decision to pull out of key districts has angered the head of the local provincial council. Mohammad Karim Atal told CNN the move was wrong, irresponsible and would lead to further losses in surrounding districts.

“Afghan soldiers had paid a heavy price and had recaptured some of the areas in those districts by shedding their blood only few months back, but now because of mismanagement, lack of coordination and weak leadership they left them to the hands of the enemies,” Atal said.

He added that by pulling out they have not only lost Nawzad and Musa Qala, but have brought three other neighboring districts – including Washir, Kajaki and Sangin – to the brink of collapse.

Last December, the Taliban managed to take over the key district of Sangin for a short period of time.

According to Stuart Gordon, a Helmand expert at the Chatham House think tank, Sangin holds special significance to the British as more than 100 British troops had been killed there.

“Sangin became fairly totemic for the British because of the number of soldiers lost,” he told the Press Association in December.

British support for Afghan military

On Monday, a British government spokesman noted the “important role” UK troops played in training Afghan security forces and creating “the conditions for a more viable state.”

“There’s no doubt the Afghan security forces have faced a challenging year but they’ve shown the resolve to continue the fight and we are committed to supporting them in their path towards a secure future,” the spokesman said.

“Our non-combat contribution towards developing the next generation of Afghan army officers continues, as does our advising and assisting role in Kabul and in the short term via the small non-combat advisory team in Camp Shorabak in Helmand,” he added, referring to the Afghan airbase formerly known as Camp Bastion in Lashkar Gar.