Afghan security forces have repulsed a massive Taliban offensive in southern Helmand province in the past 24 hours, officials and residents said on Tuesday, as militants launched attacks across the country after the underground deadline to withdraw troops.
With the May 1 withdrawal deadline agreed in talks with the Taliban last year, their withdrawal has begun, and President Joe Biden announced that all troops would withdraw on September 11. “There was a storm of heavy guns and explosions in the city, and the sound of small arms was like someone making popcorn,” Mullah Jan, a resident of a suburb of the provincial capital Lashkar Gah, told Reuters.
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Members of my family went to the corner of the room and listened to the loud explosions and gunfire as if it was happening behind our walls, “he said. The families who could afford to leave had fled, but he hadn’t made it. Waiting with his family was dreadful before the Taliban were pushed back.
Attaullah Afghan, head of Helmand’s Provincial Council, said the Taliban launched their massive multi-directional offensive on Monday, attacking checkpoints on the outskirts of Lashkar Gah in the process of some Afghan security forces launched airstrikes and deployed elite commandos in the region.
The insurgents had been driven back, but the fighting continued Tuesday, and hundreds of families had been displaced, he added. As part of the withdrawal, the US forces handed over a base in Helmand to Afghan troops two days ago. The Afghan Ministry of Defense said that in addition to Helmand, security forces responded to the attacks by the Taliban in at least six other provinces, including southeast Ghazni and southern Kandahar, in the past 24 hours.
The Defense Ministry said just over 100 Taliban fighters had been killed in Helmand. The Taliban did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The deadline for the withdrawal of US troops on May 1 was agreed to last year under former President Donald Trump. The Taliban rejected Biden’s announcement that the troops would remain at the post but would withdraw for the next four and a half months.
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