Attaullah Afghan, the head of the Helmand Provincial Council, said the Taliban launched their offensive from several directions on Monday. The group attacked checkpoints around the outskirts of the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah, taking control of some of them, he said.
Afghan security forces had carried out airstrikes and deployed elite commandos in the area. The group was pushed back but fighting continued on Tuesday and hundreds of families were displaced, he added.
“There was a heavy weapons storm and explosions in the city and the sound of small arms was as if someone was making popcorn,” said on Tuesday Mulah Jan, a resident of a suburb of Lashkar. Gah, to the Reuters news agency.
“I took all of my family to a corner of the room, hearing the loud explosions and bursts of gunfire as if it was happening behind our walls,” he said.
Families who could afford to leave had fled, but he had been unable to leave, waiting with his family in fear before the Taliban was driven back.
A Taliban push into Helmand would have a special resonance, as the desert province where opium grows was where American and British forces suffered most of their losses in the 20 Years War.
The American withdrawal
As part of the withdrawal, US forces ceded a base in Helmand to Afghan government troops two days ago.
In Washington, the US military said about two to six percent of the withdrawal process has been completed so far.
US Central Command said the equivalent of about 60 C-17s of materiel had been moved out of Afghanistan and more than 1,300 pieces of equipment had been turned in for destruction.
The Afghan Defense Ministry said that in addition to Helmand, security forces have responded to Taliban attacks in at least six other provinces, including southeast Ghazni and southern Kandahar over the past 24 hours. hours.
The Defense Ministry said just over 100 Taliban fighters were killed in Helmand. He did not provide details of casualties among Afghan security forces. The Taliban did not immediately comment.
The May 1 deadline for the withdrawal of US troops was agreed last year under former President Donald Trump. The Taliban rejected President Joe Biden’s announcement that troops would stay past the deadline but pull out over the next four and a half months.
The deadline was met by an upsurge in violence, with a car bomb in Logar province killing nearly 30 people on Friday evening.
On Monday, at least seven Afghan servicemen were killed when the Taliban set off explosives smuggled into a tunnel the group had dug at an army outpost in southwest Farah province.