Afghan forces' retreat in Helmand should help battle Taliban: minister

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By Mohammad Stanekzai and James Mackenzie LASHKAR GAH/SORAB, Afghanistan (Reuters) - The surprise withdrawal of Afghan forces from parts of Helmand province may leave large areas under Taliban control, but it should bolster the defenses of the volatile southern region, the country's top defense official said. Acting Defence Minister Masoom Stanekzai said it made little sense to spread forces across sparsely populated districts like Musa Qala and Naw Zad, where government troops pulled out in February. There was a lot of pressure in different parts of Helmand," he told Reuters in Helmand, where he met local tribal elders and commanders of the Afghan army's 215th Corps last week.