October 28, 2016

Afghanistan Taliban push further in Sangin


Government of Afghan forces have lost control of the centre of the town of Sangin in Helmand province after days of fierce fighting.
Eyewitnesses told Taliban controlled the local government building and police station.
The Taliban say their fighters have seized the entire district and that their flag is flying over Sangin.
However, the Afghan defence ministry said fighting was continuing and that reinforcements had been sent.
Eyewitnesses say some government forces are still fighting in the district centre but are cut off.
District governor Haji Suliman Shah told he had been airlifted from the district headquarters to Shorabak base – formerly Camp Bastion – in Lashkar Gah early on Wednesday, along with 15 wounded security force members.
Meanwhile Ashuqullah, a police officer with an Afghan army brigade at a barracks about 7km (four miles) from Sangin, told the BBC the “entire” town was controlled by militants.
“Support troops have been airdropped at a distance… but all roads are blocked and in the militants’ control,” he added.
He said a few hundred members of the security forces were besieged at the barracks.
Why Sangin matters
Sangin is a strategically placed market town in the southern Helmand province and a rich opium production centre. It was a key focus of Nato’s involvement in Afghanistan.
Of the 456 UK military deaths in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2015, almost a quarter were killed in and around Sangin.
It now looks as though Sangin may have fallen into Taliban hands just one year after the end of the international combat mission to Afghanistan.
US and British troops have been sent to Helmand in the last few days, but in an advisory role, not to fight.
Helmand province has been a major centre of the Taliban insurgency. Its proximity to Pakistan also gives the area a broader strategic significance.
Read more about Sangin
Harsh lessons from Sangin
Who are the Taliban?
Afghanistan’s acting Defence Minister Masoum Stanikzai described the situation in Helmand as “manageable” and said fresh support troops had been sent in.
However the evacuation by air of the top government official from Sangin suggests many believe the district centre will fall under Taliban control at some point on Wednesday.
A Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, claimed on Wednesday:
“The Sangin district centres, its police HQ, and other establishments were under continued attacks of the mujahideen and today… with God’s grace the district was fully captured by the mujahideen.

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