The Taliban is Back
“We do not have heavy weapons to use against the enemy. Now the enemy has more modern and heavy weapons than us.”
Afghan Army Major
(New York Times) - Even as they wage a widespread northern offensive, the Taliban have been mounting a multifront attack on two southern Afghan provinces in recent weeks, besieging several districts simultaneously and deeply straining Afghan security forces who in many cases have been surrounded and cut off from resupply, officials say.
Thousands of Afghan soldiers and police officers have been struggling to keep the Taliban out of Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand Province. Last week, the fighting came within five miles of the provincial capital. The situation was similar in Uruzgan Province, which borders Helmand to the northwest, according to local officials.
“The Afghan security forces have not made progress in the past seven days of fierce fighting,” said Hajji Mohammad Omar, a member of the Nad Ali district council; Nad Ali district borders the Helmand provincial capital, which appears to be the Taliban’s goal.
Control of Helmand is as much an economic prize as a strategic one because the province accounts for nearly half the opium poppy cultivation in the country, according to United Nations surveys.
From 50 to 60 police officers were killed in the fight for Nad Ali over just a few days, said a police commander in the district who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was under instructions not to speak to reporters.
In telephone interviews, Afghan soldiers and their officers described feeling abandoned by their government, often left with only scant supplies of ammunition and fuel, their situation increasingly desperate in the face of Taliban fighters who seem to have grown in number.
“We do not have heavy weapons to use against the enemy,” said one major whose Afghan Army unit is fighting in Uruzgan. “Now the enemy has more modern and heavy weapons than us.”
“Another problem we are facing is a lack of logistical and air support: When our posts are attacked and surrounded by the enemy, we do not have helicopters to get supplies or weapons,” he added. “In the entire brigade we have only two helicopters and they are being used for Kandahar, Uruzgan, Helmand and Daikundi Provinces, and it takes at least five to six days before it is our turn.”
“We need planes or helicopters to evacuate the dead soldiers from the battlefield so that they are not left for the enemy,” said Ghafar Khan, a soldier who was stationed at the Camp Bastion base in Helmand. It was his second major combat posting this year, after spending eight months encircled and in harsh circumstances in Sangin District in northern Helmand.
“We know Afghanistan is a poor country and relies on aid from other countries, and we can tolerate almost any lack of services,” he said. “We can fight on an empty stomach, live in hardship and spend more time in the trenches. But it is hard to watch your friends dying in front of you while you are powerless to help them.”
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“In the entire brigade we have only two helicopters and they are being used for Kandahar, Uruzgan, Helmand and Daikundi Provinces, and it takes at least five to six days before it is our turn.”
Afghan Army Major