WASHINGTON: The Taliban captured a district in western Afghanistan as security continued to deteriorate in the war-ravaged state, the US media reported on Monday.
The fall of the district, Anardarah district in Farah province, came days after Afghan security forces suffered heavy casualties in another district in the same province, the reports added.
Farah is a strategically important province, as it borders Iran and is linked to the country’s lucrative drug routes.
The New York Times warned that these setbacks could further deteriorate the security situation in Afghanistan, “as the US military finds itself drawn deeper into the war”.
Dadullah Qani, a member of the Farah provincial council, told NYT that Taliban fighters stormed Anardarah district, which used to be a safe area, and overran a number of government compounds in the district centre early on Monday.
“The district governor’s compound and police headquarters are near the southern entrance of the district, and both are overrun by the Taliban,” Mr Qani said. “There are casualties to the police, but we lost contact with them and we have no idea about their condition, including the police chief of the district.”
Mohammad Naseer Mehri, a spokesman for the governor of Farah, told NYT that the attack began around 4am and the Taliban had managed to enter the governor’s compound and seize it.
Diplomatic observers in Washington say that such gains for the Taliban could create new problems in the implementation of the new US strategy for Afghanistan.
Announced in August 2017, the strategy seeks to defeat the Taliban in the battlefield to force it to join the Afghan reconciliation process.
Pakistan supports the US proposal for persuading Taliban to join the peace process and urges Washington not to insist on a military defeat.
During a visit to Washington last week, Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua said that fresh military offensives in Afghanistan have killed at least 10,000 Afghans a year in the last three years. Such casualties, she said, would make reconciliation even more difficult than it already is.
Published in Dawn, March 13th, 2018