Locals fleeing their village in Maidan Wardak province

Dozens of families flee homes as Taliban launch attacks in Maidan Wardak

Dozens of families were forced to flee their homes and lands after Taliban launched an offensive on Sarchashma neighborhood, an area mostly populated by the Hazaras in Jalrez district of Maidan Wardak province. The offensive was carried out around 03:00 PM on Friday, August 23, and lasted for nine hours.

Wais, who along with six members of his family, fled to Hisa-e-Awali Behsud, another district of the province, said they had left livestocks and crops in the area. The same as Wais, dozens of families from different villages of Sarchashma neighborhood were forced to flee to the capital city of Bamyan province and Beshud district when their houses came under consecutive mortar attacks.

Wais, who in person has now returned to his village, says that the Taliban have been pushed back by local militias. He, however, fears that the battle could break out anytime again.

According to him, the Taliban have captured swaths of land in Jalrez district. “Currently there is just one outpost of local police in the bordering area separating the Tajik populated area from the Hazaras’. All other outposts and even military bases have been removed,” Wais added.

Meanwhile, Abdul Rahman Ahmadi, spokesperson to Bamyan governor, confirmed that nearly 40 families, who fled Taliban offensive, have temporarily been settled in Bamyan. He added that local government was putting efforts to provide temporary settlement and aid for the displaced families.

According to sources, the Taliban have used civilians and passengers as “human shields” to capture an outpost and a military base located across the highway, connecting Bamyan to Kabul.

The Taliban have attacked houses belonged to civilians who are all ethnic Hazaras. In response to the attack, the locals mobilized and cleaned Takana and Pul-e-Mehrab areas from the presence of the militants on Friday.

Mirza Ali, a displaced resident of Sarchashma, however, says that the Taliban have regained the areas after the Afghan security forces hesitated to take positions in the two areas.

Meanwhile, Mahdi Rasikh, an MP who represents Maidan Wardak province, said that authorities in the country’s National Security Council have vowed that the security forces would launch airstrikes. “We talked to the ministry of defense and they promised to address the issue,” he said.

The MP further confirmed that a local police was killed in the battle with the Taliban.

Hikmatullah Durani, spokesperson for Maidan Wardak police chief, said that the Afghan defense and security forces were targeting the Taliban ranks through air and ground operations, adding that four Taliban militants were killed as the result of airstrikes carried out by Afghan forces.

Local sources, however, say that most of security outposts in Jalrez district have either been removed or captured by the Taliban. They warned that the district was currently under Taliban siege.

Located around 60 kilometers away from the capital, Kabul, Jalrez district has always been insecure. Officially known as Sharah-e-Number Duo, the highway connecting Bamyan and other central parts of the country to Kabul, is passing through Jalrez district. The Taliban have abducted and killed dozens of civilians and government employees, mostly Hazaras, over the past few years in the district.

The Taliban militants brutally killed nearly 40 Afghan local police forces four years ago in the same district. Footage of the incident circulated on social media showed that the Taliban militants beheaded them after they were shot them to death.

MP Rasikh believes that there are some political and economic incentives behind insecurity across the highway as there are paid ghost soldiers for the highway, and the Taliban also collect illegal taxes from the people crossing the area. According to Rasikh, the Taliban collect about 300,000 afghanis on daily basis.

The MP further went on to criticize that the highway was often used as a leverage against Hazaras. “That’s why they [the government] have deliberately left this area to the terrorists,” he argued, adding that around 110 Hazaras, including civilians and security forces, were killed in the area in the past years. He also noted that Jalrez district was currently under the Taliban siege.

In the meantime, Fawad Aman, deputy spokesperson for the Ministry of Defense, assured that the district would not fall to the Taliban as a sufficient number of security forces were already deployed to the province.