Afghan forces fighting back huge Taliban offensive after missed US withdrawal deadline
Iran Press TV
Tuesday, 04 May 2021 4:10 PM
Afghan security forces have attempted to confront a huge Taliban offensive in Afghanistan's southern Helmand Province, as militants launch raids around the war-torn Asian country following a missed US troop withdrawal deadline for May 1.
Attaullah Afghan, the head of Helmand's provincial council, said the Taliban launched their huge offensive from multiple directions and took control of some checkpoints around the outskirts of the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah, on Monday.
Afghan forces had launched airstrikes and deployed elite commando forces to the area, he added.
The militants were pushed back but clashes were continuing on Tuesday and hundreds of families had been displaced, the official said.
The Afghan Defense Ministry also said that the government forces had been responding to raids by the Taliban in at least six other provinces, including southeastern Ghazni and the former militant bastion of Kandahar, in the past 24 hours.
The ministry said just over 100 Taliban fighters had been killed in Helmand. It did not give details of any casualties suffered by government forces in the counteroperations.
Some local residents and eye witnesses spoke of the heavy exchange of fire and huge explosions in Helmand.
"There was a thunderstorm of heavy weapons and blasts in the city and the sound of small arms was like someone was making popcorn," Mulah Jan, a resident was quoted as saying.
"I took all my family members to the corner of the room, hearing the heavy blasts and bursts of gunfire as if it was happening behind our walls," he said.
Helmand was the opium-growing desert province where US and British forces suffered the bulk of their losses during the 20-year war on Afghanistan.
Violence against Afghans has escalated in recent weeks.
In the most recent assault, seven Afghan soldiers were killed in an attack by the Taliban militants on an army outpost in the southwestern province of Farah on Monday.
Since a withdrawal deal was struck between the Taliban and the United States, the militants have not directly engaged the US-led foreign troops, but have mercilessly attacked government forces across the country.
Under an agreement that was reached between the Taliban and the administration of former US President Donald Trump in Qatar last year, foreign forces were to have left Afghanistan by May 1.
US President Joe Biden has pushed back the May 1 deadline, however. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has also said the withdrawal does not mean the United States will "leave."
"We've been engaged in Afghanistan for 20 years, and we sometimes forget why we went there in the first place, and that was to deal with the people who attacked us on 9/11. And we did. Just because our troops are coming home doesn't mean we're leaving. We're not," Blinken said on Sunday.
The Taliban have issued a warning of future attacks on the US troops occupying the country.
Pentagon has said it is prepared for every scenario in Afghanistan.
"We have to be prepared for every scenario, and there are a range of them," Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said on Monday.
The statement from Kirby came after a major international airfield in Afghanistan came under attack as the US officially began pulling out its troops from the country on Saturday.
The US invaded Afghanistan in 2001 under the banner of fighting terrorism. The invasion toppled a Taliban regime, but the group never stopped its attacks.
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