Afghan forces battle Taliban in Helmand

An Afghan National Army soldier searches a passenger at a checkpoint on the way to the Sangin district of Helmand province, Wednesday.

An Afghan National Army soldier searches a passenger at a checkpoint on the way to the Sangin district of Helmand province, Wednesday.


Afghan forces on Wednesday battled Taliban fighters who overran the district of Sangin in the southern province of Helmand this week after reinforcements and NATO military advisers were rushed in to try to stop another district falling into insurgent hands.

Acting Defense Minister Masoom Stanekzai said fighting was going on in Sangin where government forces had been surrounded by insurgents who controlled most of the district including roads needed for reinforcements and supplies.

“The military is in position and the operation is ongoing,” Stanekzai told a news conference in Kabul, adding that reinforcements had arrived in the province to relieve troops in Sangin.

Provincial police chief Abdul Rahman Sarjang said the situation had improved since the beginning of the week but heavy fighting was continuing.

Although much attention has been focused on Sangin, fierce fighting has been underway across much of Helmand, a traditional stronghold of the Taliban and a major center for opium that US and British troops fought for years to control.

“There is fighting here every day and whenever people come to the bazaar for shopping they get killed,” said shopkeeper Musa Khan, in Marjah district, near the provincial capital Lashkar Gah.

The crisis in Helmand has piled pressure on the government of President Ashraf Ghani, following the fall of the northern city of Kunduz in September, which Taliban fighters seized and held for several days.

Government forces have complained bitterly about being left without adequate supplies and reinforcements as well as with none of the air power that backed up NATO forces when they fought in the region.


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