Afghan forces refuse to fight Taliban in southern district

Afghan security forces refuse to return to streets of southern Sangin district to fight Taliban

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

An Afghan National Army (ANA) soldier mans his position at an outpost in Helmand province, Afghanistan on December 25, 2015

Afghan police refused to return to the streets of the volatile southern Sangin district in Helmand under Taliban attack, saying that they have not received promised government help, Afghan official Karim Atal said on Tuesday.

Atal, the director of the Helmand provincial council, said that the security forces were staying inside their base in the Sangin district, where government forces have been battling the Taliban militant group for weeks against their takeover attempts.

Taliban attempts to overrun Sangin increased last week when militants besieged the base, cutting off supply lines for troops, ammunition and food.

Atal also denied reports that a military clearing operation had begun in the district.

In response, acting Afghan Defence Minister Masoom Stanekzai said that reinforcements of special forces and commandoes had been deployed. A series of US air strikes were conducted and a small contingent of British troops were deployed to advise the Afghan forces, which finally helped break the siege.

British soldiers, part of NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) at a NATO base in Helmand province, in November 2012 (Reuters/Archive)

Atal said in a sharp rebuke of the central authorities in Kabul that with army and police hunkered down inside the base in Sangin, "that's the only way they can claim that the district has not fallen" to the Taliban.

Sangin has become a major poppy-growing district in Helmand, the heartland of the Taliban, producing most of the world’s opium, the cash crop that funds the insurgency.

The Afghan forces have been heavily fighting the insurgency on the front lines resulting in high casualties due to the lack of arms, equipment and facilities of the army despite doing the same job.

Atal reported that the fighting in four districts of Helmand killed about 700 policemen and wounded 500 in the past three months. As the police did not have a “proper management system”, it was difficult to get certain figures of the casualties, he added.

Defence and interior ministers have not made public the total casualty figures of Afghan security forces but NATO military sources said that they are now 28 percent higher than in 2014, when the total toll was around 5,000.

This year, the Afghan forces have had a tough time on the battleground for the first time struggling with the insurgents alone, following decrease of the international fighting troops at the end of last year. The Taliban is using the drawdown to advance their offensives across the country.

TRTWorld and agencies