Afghan forces struggle to break Taliban siege in Farah

MP Homayoun Shahidzadah, who represents Farah province, says security situation in Farah is deteriorating. A security ‘catastrophe’ may take place in Pusht-e-Koh district if the government does not take security measure, he warned. “Around 100 Afghan security forces are under siege by the Taliban in Pusht-e-Koh district,” Mr. Shahidzadah told Kabul Now. According to the MP, Afghan security forces, under siege by the Taliban, are facing food shortages. He accused the central government of ignoring the province. He says the local government is not able to defend the people and break the siege.

The Taliban have gained more territory in western Farah province, say locals and local officials. According to them, most of Farah districts are either under control or besieged by the Taliban militants.

Masood Bakhtawar, Farah’s deputy governor, confirmed that the Taliban have increased attacks and threats against Afghan defense and security forces in the district. But he rejected the news of Taliban besieging the Afghan security forces.

Truck drivers are forced to pay money extortion

The Taliban insurgents have been forcing Afghan truck drivers to pay money extortion. Money extortion, illegal mining and drug traffic are said to make the main financial resource that keeps Taliban’s war machine run.      

According to local officials, the Taliban have planted roadside bombs across the road connecting Farah’s capital city with Shaikh Abu Nasr Farahi port in the province. Afghan truck drivers, who import and export merchandise from and to Iran, are forced to use the rout passing through Taliban controlled areas of Pusht-e-Koh district.

“The Taliban have changed the transit route,” Said Mr. Bakhtawar. “The Taliban are collecting taxes and have [established] customs offices. We have launched operations several times but the Taliban tax collection systems is still in place.”

Dadullah Qaneh, a member of Farah Provincial Council, claims that the Taliban are getting stronger day-by-day. “The war will intensify, if the Taliban customs are not wiped out,” he warned, complaining that the Afghan government is silent over the issue.

Government assures of imminent military operation

Shibkoh, a Farah district bordering with Iran in the west, is under control by the Taliban. The government forces have control just over compounds and surrounding of the military battalion headquarter in Pusht-e-Koh district.

Masood Bakhtawar, however, assured that an imminent military operation, backed by air force, will be launched to clear Pusht-e-Koh district of the presence of the Taliban. “The supplements of army force have already been sent to Farah,” he said.

Belqis Roshan, a female MP, who represents Farah in the parliament, however, expresses doubt over promises made by the local administration, including its recent one about launching military operation. She said that the government was not able to restore a sustainable telecom services. According to locals, the telecommunication companies are just operating for three hours a day due to restrictions imposed by the Taliban.

Forced displacement

Local residents, talked to Kabul Now, say residents of Pusht-e-Koh district are living in dire situation in outskirt of Farah capital city. Mr. Qaneh said that the displaced people are forced to live inside poultry farms.

A civil society activist of the province, Abdul Nasir Farahi, claimed that shops and residential houses were looted in bazaar of Pusht-e-Kho district.

A likely catastrophe

According to MP Shahidzada, the Taliban are targeting Afghan security forces with heavy weapons such as mortar and missile in Pusht-e-Koh district while Afghan security forces have nothing to eat. “Security forces are spending days and nights facing tough hardships in a dire situation. The ministries of defense and interior have not provided any assistance for them,” he underlined.

MP Roshan warns that Taliban attacks are likely to intensify if an extensive clearance operation is not conducted in the province.

The western Farah province has strategic importance for the Taliban insurgents. It borders with Helmand, Nimroz and Herat provinces. The province is contested between the government forces and the Taliban insurgents who took brief controls over the capital Farah city in previous years but the Afghan security forces pushed them back.