First & Successful Afghan Army Offensive on Taliban in Helmand + Video

Mon Mar 2, 2015 13:55:41

The Afghan army is waging its largest-ever solo offensive against the Taliban, hoping to strike a decisive blow ahead of the spring fighting season and prove it can route the insurgents without the aid of U.S. and NATO combat troops.

Afghan troops have been slowly pushing up through a fertile river valley in the southern Helmand province, with Special Forces mounting night-time helicopter raids into mud brick compounds and ground troops gradually advancing across the poppy fields that in past years have furnished the insurgents' main cash crop.

The operation, which is codenamed Zolfiqar , has proved successful so far with significantly more causalities on the insurgents' side, Helmand provincial deputy governor, Mohammad Jan Rasoulyar said.

He also said about a month or two ago there reports of the ISIS group's militants' presence in the province, but "their (ISIS's) chapter is over in Helmand," ever since the group's commander was killed in an airstrike, he said.

Meanwhile, the town of Sangin in the east of Hemland province, which had seen months of heavy fighting, was declared clear on Friday, according to an official for US and NATO operations in Afghanistan.

Sangin resident Khan Mohammad, who was injured in the operation and is receiving treatment at an emergency hospital in Lashkar Gah, was hopeful the area would be safe, provided check posts were going to be established in the district.

Up until Thursday about 170 patients were admitted to the hospital from Sangin as well as the neighbouring town of Marjah, a hospital official said.

Local residents such as Gul Ustad, who has been displaced by the conflict and together with his children were living in a temporary accommodation in Lashkar Gah, would like to come back to their villages as quickly as possible.

The real test of Zolfiqar's effectiveness however, will come later, when Afghan forces try to hold hard-won territory.

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