KABUL—The Taliban commander overseeing an assault on the vital southern town of Lashkargah is 1 of 5,000 previous prisoners released by the Afghan federal government last yr below strain from the U.S., Afghan and Western officials say.
The commander, Mawlavi Talib, is 1 of hundreds of previous prisoners freed to additional peace talks who have returned to the battlefield to join the Taliban onslaught towards metropolitan areas close to the state, Afghan officials say. The existence of the Taliban fighters is a contemporary strain in relations between Washington and Kabul, as the U.S.-backed federal government struggles to fend off Taliban assaults throughout the state.
Afghan officials claimed fierce fighting continued Tuesday in Lashkargah, the provincial money of Helmand province, just after major U.S. airstrikes and a counterattack by U.S.-trained Afghan commandos right away. Underneath Mr. Talib’s command, hundreds of Taliban have pushed toward the town middle above the past week. On Tuesday they launched an attack on Lashkargah’s prison in a bid to release more inmates and recruit them into the battle.
The fighting in Lashkargah is component of a wider countrywide Taliban offensive that had captured 50 percent of the country’s remote districts by last thirty day period and now threatens provincial capitals. On Tuesday, the federal government claimed that its commandos launched a counterattack in the western town of Herat, whose defenses had been teetering. Taliban forces last thirty day period pierced defenses in Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second biggest town, but federal government forces are holding steady there.
Afghanistan’s Defense Ministry claimed Tuesday its forces killed close to 375 Taliban and wounded 193 in fighting throughout the state in the last 24 several hours. Eleven improvised explosive gadgets had been identified and defused, the ministry claimed. The Afghan federal government has stopped releasing stats on its personal military casualties to stay away from demoralizing its troops.
Right before a exclusive session of parliament called in reaction to the Taliban offensive, Afghan President
assured the state Monday that the U.S. however supports the federal government. But he available a scarce general public criticism of the U.S., indicating, “the latest condition is thanks to a unexpected final decision on the withdrawal of intercontinental troops.”
On Tuesday, Secretary of Condition
spoke with Mr. Ghani to “reiterate the potent and enduring U.S. dedication to Afghanistan,” the Condition Section claimed. The leaders the two condemned the Taliban assaults, which they claimed “show minor regard for human daily life and human legal rights.”
Afghan forces’ dependence on U.S. air electrical power for airstrikes and logistics rendered them ill-organized for the U.S. pullout. Afghan officials say privately that their ground and air forces have been stretched skinny in the fighting. The Afghan Air Pressure, which the U.S. has called the government’s most powerful weapon towards the Taliban, has been not able to fill the vacuum.
The U.S. pullout from Afghanistan follows an agreement signed with the Taliban last yr below which the Taliban promised not to allow al Qaeda or other intercontinental jihadist teams to use Afghan soil to attack other nations.
The U.S. agreed to the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners as component of that agreement, in an effort and hard work to motivate the Taliban to talk to the Afghan federal government and concur to a cease-hearth. However, Kabul was reluctant to totally free the prisoners and, Afghan officials say, only did so below strain from Washington. Talks between the Taliban and Afghan federal government started out but never ever acquired momentum and alternatively of a cease-hearth, the insurgents have unleashed a countrywide offensive.
The Condition Section did not respond promptly to a request for remark.
Right before their release, prisoners signed promises not to have interaction in fighting with the federal government, but most of the freed prisoners are now back again on the battlefield, claimed Fawad Aman, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s Ministry of Defense.
“These freed Taliban are actively playing a quite essential position in Helmand. They are amongst the fiercest Taliban terrorists,” claimed Mr. Aman.
Mr. Talib served for years below the Taliban, initial as a military commander and later on as the Taliban’s unrecognized, or “shadow,” deputy governor of Helmand province. The province, the web page of major fighting between U.S. and British troops and the Taliban, is a middle for poppy cultivation for the narcotics trade, so is particularly prized by the insurgents.
Very last yr Mr. Talib was arrested by Afghan soldiers who identified him as he attempted to pass by way of a checkpoint on a street in the Sangin district in jap Helmand, Afghan officials claimed. He was sent to Kabul for confinement, but within just months was freed in the prisoner release, the officials claimed.
He before long resumed his outdated publish of shadow deputy governor of Helmand, officials claimed. In June fighters overran remote districts in the province, and last thirty day period Mr. Talib gathered fighters from throughout Helmand and adjacent provinces to surround Lashkargah for an attack.
Taliban fighters have seized most of the town in latest months, which include a federal government television station, and this week began their personal radio and television broadcasts.
A counterattack by commando models appeared to stem the advance by Tuesday. But Mr. Aman claimed the Taliban was applying civilians and residences as shields in Lashkargah, slowing down the operation.
The civilian populace was requested Tuesday by the Afghan army common primary the battle, Sami Sadat, to vacate their houses. Community residents questioned how it was harmless for them to go outside their residences.
“I am fighting for the upcoming of my people today,” claimed Gen. Sadat, in a information to the populace of Lashkargah. “We will not leave the Taliban alive.”
—Frotan Ghousuddin contributed to this short article.
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