Helmand families flee homes in Lashkargah

Helmand families forced to flee homes as battle continues in outskirts of Lashkargah

Local authorities and security officials are confident to assure that the Afghan security forces will protect the city as the Taliban militants are trying to tighten hold on the strategic Lashkargah city in the southern Helmand province. Despite a growing violence security officials and local representatives appear confident enough to say that Lashkargah will not collapse in the hands of the militants.

Security forces are progressing in Lashkargah and the threat of a collapse has been removed for sure, says Abdul Ahad Sultanzoy, a member of Helmand Provincial Council.  Military operations is underway through the air and ground to push back the Taliban militants, he told Kabul Now.

Located in the southern part of the country, Helmand is a restive province with much of its territories controlled by the Taliban militants. As per account of Mr. Sultanzoy, the Taliban have now a full control on Sangin, Musa Qala, Kajaki, and Bugrhan districts and in other districts the government forces control just their district centers.

But the ongoing conflict has forced hundreds of families to flee their homes.

As Taliban attacks continue to take control over Lashkargah hundreds of families have been displaced, with the militants launching attacks from four directions turning residential areas around Lashkargah into battleground.

Clashes between Afghan forces and the Taliban are currently underway in PD3, around municipality area, PD10, and in areas two kilometers away from the governor offices, according to some MPs and representatives of Helmand Provincial Council.

The Taliban have stormed the city from four directions and the city is under a very “serious” threat, says MP Gul Wali Afghan who represents Helmand province in the Parliament. He, however, assured that Afghan defense and security forces are defending the city with their full capabilities and repelled Taliban attacks in several areas over the past 24 hours. “Security forces are in a better situation than they were in before the Eid days. The security forces have made progresses and prevented the Taliban to do so.”

After the May 01 deadline – set for complete withdrawal of the foreign troops from Afghanistan in the US-Taliban agreement – expired, the Taliban militants launched large-scale offensives across seven provinces. Helmand, Kandahar, Ghazni, Baghlan, Herat, and Zabul witnessed an intensified Taliban violence over the past two weeks.

Last week, the National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib claimed that the Taliban faced defeat in all their attacks across the provinces. Previously, Director of the National Directorate of Security (NDS) Ahmad Zia Saraj had also said that the Taliban wanted to overrun one or two provinces in order to facilitate moving its leadership from Pakistan to Afghanistan.

The Ministry of Defense (MoD) also confirms that the Taliban wanted to take over Helmand province but their attacks were repelled. Launching heavy attacks on Lashkargah ten days earlier, the Taliban planned to overthrow the city but to no avail, said Rohullah Ahmadzai, the MoD Spokesperson. He further assured that the city will not fell into the Taliban hands. “More than 30 Taliban militants, including their key commanders, were killed and wounded yesterday as a result of aerial bombardments and ground operation,” the MoD official said on Monday, May 17.

Before a Taliban declared truce went into effect last Thursday, May 13, the MoD claimed that the Taliban militants suffered heavy casualties over a two-week fighting in Helmand province. After the three-day truce ended, the 215 Maiwand Military Corps announced that the army forces have resumed their operations in western suburbs of Lashkargah, Nawa and Nahr-e-Saraj districts.

Moreover, President Ghani had also ordered all Afghan military corps commanders to suppress the Taliban militants if they decide to continue fighting.

The government forces launched clearance operation around Lashkargah on Monday’s morning, May 17, and are making progresses on the battleground, said Omar Zawak, the spokesperson for Helmand governor.

He added that the operation will continue until all the areas are cleared off from the presence of the Taliban.

According to the local official, the recent violence have displaced a large number of families mostly to Lashkargah. He, however, did not provide a specific number.

Moreover, MP Gul Wali Afghan says that a number of civilians were killed or wounded in the ongoing clashes mostly by the Taliban roadside bombs and their mortar fires. He also did not provide a specific number of casualty. According to him, the local residents who are mostly farmers have suffered heavy financial loses as they have either lost much of their livestock and agricultural harvests or are prone to be destroyed.

Air travel has been disrupted since two weeks ago for civil passengers, as Zawak said, for the fight has even expanded into areas surrounding the airport in Lashkargah.

A surge in violence has intensified across the country despite the fact that the Taliban leadership has committed to a power sharing deal with the Afghan government. In his interview with the German news agency, Spiegel, President Ghani assured that his government will fight the Taliban militants unless they come to a meaningful peace process.

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