Despite US Bombings, Taliban Capture District in Afghan’s Helmand Province
22:13 26.08.2015 (updated 23:45 26.08.2015)
Despite US air strikes aimed at pushing Taliban fighters out of Helmand province, the group has captured the strategic town of Musa Qala. It marks the second major gain for the Taliban in recent weeks, and two NATO soldiers have been killed in the process.
Keeping the Musa Qala’s district headquarters out of the hands of the Taliban is seen as a vital strategic move. Recaptured by NATO and Afghan security forces in 2007, the region was once a major cog in the Taliban’s opium trade.
On Saturday, the US launched three air strikes against insurgents to defend the district. Supporting Afghan ground forces, the strikes reportedly killed 40 Taliban fighters.
But after a round of intense fighting Wednesday morning, the Taliban has retaken the town in Afghanistan’s southern province.
“We left the district early in the morning because the Taliban were attacking from all sides,” Governor Mohammad Sharif told Reuters.
“We had asked for reinforcements for days but none arrived and this was what happened.”
The attack seemed to coincide with an incident on a military base in southern Helmand. Two men dressed in Afghan military uniforms opened fire on a vehicle, killing two NATO soldiers.
“Two Resolute Support service members died early this morning, when two individuals wearing Afghan National Defence and Security Forces uniforms opened fired on their vehicle,” the US-led mission confirmed in a statement.
With most foreign security forces withdrawing from Afghanistan last December, fighting has intensified in recent months. Roughly 12,000 NATO troops remain in the country, but with the goal of training the Afghan military. The Taliban has used the transition to their advantage, pushing to reclaim territory.
Last month, the group seized the Nawzad district, also in Helmand province.
The reemergence of the Taliban is seen as a major blow to the US-led coalition. Despite hopes for a peaceful transition, the violence could be a sign of a return to the old status quo, Afghanistan as it existed before the 2001 invasion.
The complete loss of Helmand, in particular, would be seen as a major defeat. As a key region, coalition forces fought hard to wrest control of the province from the Taliban. Over 400 British soldiers lost their lives taking over a region which rapidly falling back into the hands of the insurgents.
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