Govt Assures Helmand Will Not Fall to Taliban Unless Insurgent Advances + VIDEO

Mon Dec 21, 2015 17:53:37

Taliban insurgents on Monday overran the strategic district of Sangin in the southern Afghan province of Helmand, a day after a local official made the unusual move of turning to Facebook in a public appeal to the president for help.

"I know that bringing up this issue on social media will make you very angry … But I cannot be silent any more," Mohammad Jan Rasulyar, the deputy governor of Helmand, wrote in the post, saying he took to the social network after having failed to make contact with President Ashraf Ghani through any other means.

"Helmand stands on the brink of falling to the Taliban … Ninety men have been killed in Gereshk and Sangin districts in the last two days," he said, accusing Ghani’s entourage of not having informed the leader of the gravity of the situation.

FILE: Afghanistan Forces

But despite the plea, there was no immediate reaction from Ghani's office on Sunday. The defence ministry also rejected the troop death claims and denied that Helmand was at risk of falling to the Taliban.

On Monday, however, Helmand province officials said the insurgents had overrun Sangin and surrounded the police compound.

“Right now there is a heavy fight going on between Afghan security forces and Taliban in Sangin in the district governor’s building and the police chief’s headquarters,” Governor Mirza Khan Rahimi told Reuters.

The governor said Taliban fighters were outside the compound walls and that the situation risked slipping entirely out of control.

In Kabul, meanwhile, Abdullah Abdullah, the chief executive of the National Unity Government, on Monday pledged “immediate action” to save the district. “This action will repel enemy attacks,” he said.

Taliban forces in Sangin District, Official Warns Taliban close To Taking over Helmand Province

But a police official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it was already too late for any intervention from the central government, noting that it was no longer a question of holding onto the district but a matter of trying to save the lives of around 170 police trapped inside the compound.

“If we don’t get urgent assistance from the local government, we will lose all our forces,” he said.

The officer said the roads into Sangin were now completely controlled by the Taliban and unless army units were able to break through, it would not be possible to rescue the police.

The situation in Helmand carries sharp echoes of the situation that led to the Taliban’s biggest success in the 14-year war: their brief capture of the northern city of Kunduz in September.

Taliban Insurgents

Helmand province, a major centre of opium cultivation and a traditional Taliban heartland that British and American forces struggled for years to control, has been the scene of fierce fighting for months.

Army and police units have complained of being left without adequate supplies and reinforcements as the Taliban seized three districts and threatened other centres including the provincial capital, Laskar Gah.

Meanwhile In Kabul the spokesmen for the ministries of defense and interior held a joint press conference on Monday afternoon on the rapidly deteriorating situation in Helmand province.

According to the Defense Ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri, Sangin district in Helmand has not fallen to the Taliban – despite earlier reports by local officials that it had.

Waziri said that reinforcement troops have been deployed to Helmand and so too has air support.

Ministry of Interior spokesman Sediq Sediqqi meanwhile acknowledged there has been an increase in insurgent activity in the province in recent weeks but said security forces are doing everything possible to eliminate the enemy and make sure Helmand does not fall to the Taliban.

He said the Taliban has tried hard to take over the province .However, he assured the nation that government is closely monitoring the situation and it is up to date on developments.

In addition, special commando units have been deployed to Sangin district in the past 24 hours, he said adding that efforts are ongoing to assist troops in the province and that military operations will be increased.

Sediqqi also stated that Sangin has not fallen to the Taliban and that security forces are holding off the insurgents.

However, according to Sediqqi, seven security members have died and 52 insurgents killed in the province in the past 24 hours.

Waziri meanwhile confirmed that there are a number of ongoing clashes underway in different districts in the province.


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