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Afghanistan’s Lashkar Gah at risk of falling to Taliban; hundreds flee houses, govt reinforcements arrive after delays

The scenario within the metropolis is a extra acute model of what’s taking place in cities throughout the nation after the Taliban seized round half of Afghanistan’s 400-odd districts

Representational picture. Reuters

Kabul: An necessary metropolis in Afghanistan’s south was at risk of falling to the Taliban on Saturday as their fighters pushed towards its middle regardless of concerted US and Afghan airstrikes in latest days.

Reports from Lashkar Gah, capital of Helmand, a province the place the Taliban already managed a lot of the territory earlier than their latest offensive, had been dire: People had been fleeing their houses, a hospital within the metropolis had been bombed, and authorities reinforcements had been solely now arriving after days of delays.

“We are just waiting for the Taliban to arrive — there is no expectation that the government will be able to protect the city any more,” stated Mohammadullah Barak, a resident.

What comes subsequent in Lashkar Gah is something however sure — town has been getting ready to a Taliban takeover on and off for greater than a decade. But if the rebel group seizes town this time it is going to be the primary provincial capital to fall to the Taliban since 2016.

The worsening scenario in Lashkar Gah is a extra acute model of what’s taking place in cities throughout the nation after the Taliban seized round half of Afghanistan’s 400-odd districts since US and worldwide forces started withdrawing from the nation in May.

Thousands of civilians have been killed and wounded — the best quantity recorded for the May-to-June interval for the reason that United Nations started monitoring these casualties in 2009. At least 100,000 extra have been displaced from their houses.

On Saturday, combating between rebel and authorities forces round Herat metropolis, a historically secure space within the nation’s west, edged dangerously near its periphery. Many retailers had been shuttered Saturday and Herat’s airport remained closed to civilian journey for a 3rd day. On Friday, a UN compound there was attacked, and considered one of its guards was killed.

Taliban fighters additionally remained entrenched in neighborhoods in Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second-largest metropolis, within the nation’s south. In Kunduz metropolis, an financial hub on the Tajikistan border, efforts to root out the Taliban now garrisoned inside its partitions have stalled.

The authorities’s response to the insurgents’ latest victories has been piecemeal. Afghan forces have retaken some districts, however each the Afghan air pressure and its commando forces — which have been deployed to carry what territory stays as common military and police models retreat, give up or refuse to battle — are exhausted.

In the safety forces’ stead, the federal government has as soon as extra appeared to native militias to fill the gaps, a transfer harking back to the chaotic and ethnically divided civil warfare of the 1990s that many Afghans now concern will return.

In Lashkar Gah, an Afghan navy officer stated authorities forces had requested reinforcements for days with out luck, and described the scenario as dire. Reinforcements started arriving Saturday night, he stated.

In May, Afghan and US airstrikes pushed again an assault on town, and some staunch Afghan military models held what territory they may after the native police fled. But this time there may be much less U.S. air help, and Afghan protection officers had been frantically attempting to bolster the cities below siege to stall the Taliban advance.

Just north of Lashkar Gah, in a close-by city, the Taliban on Saturday hanged two males accused of kidnapping kids from the doorway gate for all to see — a troubling indicator that the insurgents’ hard-line rule of legislation was inching nearer to the provincial capital.

In an effort to interrupt the siege, Afghan plane bombed Taliban positions in neighborhoods throughout Lashkar Gah Friday night time, a tactic that just about all the time leads to civilian casualties when carried out in populated areas. Emergency Hospital, one of many principal surgical facilities within the metropolis, reported on social media Saturday that it was full.

Attaullah Afghan, the pinnacle of the provincial council in Helmand, stated the Afghan air pressure had bombed a non-public hospital within the metropolis after the Taliban took shelter there, killing a civilian and wounding two others. Several Taliban fighters had been additionally killed within the strike, he stated.

“Only the center of the city is free of the Taliban,” stated Abdul Halim, a resident. “The city is locked and surrounded by the Taliban from all four fronts.”

Halim stated that the presence of US plane, a part of a muted bombing marketing campaign launched by the US navy earlier this month to gradual the Taliban’s advance and increase the morale of Afghan safety forces, has performed little to cease the combating in the course of the day.

“We have no idea what is going to happen,” Halim stated.

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