PHOTO taken on Sunday shows a ceremony at Camp Anthonic in Helmand province during which control of the area was handed over by US troops to Afghan forces.—Reuters
PHOTO taken on Sunday shows a ceremony at Camp Anthonic in Helmand province during which control of the area was handed over by US troops to Afghan forces.—Reuters

KANDAHAR: Thousands of Afghans started to flee their homes as fierce fighting erupted between government forces and the Taliban in Helmand province on Monday after the US military began withdrawing its remaining troops from Afghanistan, officials said.

Afghan forces claimed pushing back the Taliban on multiple checkpoints in the southern province of Helmand, where the US military handed over a base to government forces on Sunday after its formal pullout began on May 1.

About 1,000 families have fled their homes after fighting erupted on the outskirts of Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand, and some other parts of the province, said Sayed Mohammad Ramin, the region’s director for refugees.

He said the families had taken refuge in Lashkar Gah and had come from areas where fighting was intense in the past two days.

America’s defence department downplays fighting in several provinces

“We will survey their needs tomorrow, but many who still have not found shelter in the city need urgent assistance,” Ramin said.

The defence ministry said government forces killed more than 100 Taliban fighters in Helmand when the militants attacked some checkpoints on the outskirts of Lashkar Gah.

Another 22 Al Qaeda fighters from Pakistan were also killed in the fighting, the ministry claimed.

Officials said the Taliban fighters initially captured some checkpoints, but they were retaken by government forces who pushed back the militants.

“The enemy has now lost all the areas it had captured and suffered heavy casualties,” Attaullah Afghan, head of Helmand’s provincial council, said.

The Taliban said a large number of Afghan troops were killed in the fighting. Both sides are known to exaggerate casualties inflicted on the other.

Fighting has also erupted in several other provinces since the US military formally began pulling out its remaining 2,500 troops on May 1.

The Pentagon has downplayed the fighting.

“We’ve seen nothing thus far that has affected the drawdown, or had any significant impact on the mission at hand in Afghanistan,” US Department of Defence spokesman John Kirby said on Monday.

Nearly 20 years after US and allied Nato troops invaded Afghanistan and ousted the Taliban government as they pursued Al Qaeda after the Sept 11, 2001, attacks, President Joe Biden ordered the final withdrawal last month.

The Taliban attacks on government forces have raised concerns that American troops were also at risk as they pull out.

Published in Dawn, May 5th, 2021

Opinion

Eid and money
Updated 13 May 2021

Eid and money

Why is a thing more real when you can touch, taste or feel it as opposed to something that is only experienced?
On whose side?
Updated 15 May 2021

On whose side?

Our bevy of ambassadors, after their virtual meeting with the PM, must wonder who is on which side.

Editorial

Eid during Covid
Updated 13 May 2021

Eid during Covid

It is indisputable that our actions now will prevent matters from becoming far worse.
Updated 14 May 2021

Foreign policy gaffes

MIXED messages, retractions and clarifications from the government have become an all-too-common occurrence when it...
Zimbabwe series win
Updated 15 May 2021

Zimbabwe series win

For millions of Pakistani fans, it was a thrilling experience to see their team returning to its winning ways.
PM’s Saudi visit
Updated 12 May 2021

PM’s Saudi visit

It is very important that Pakistan take no step, or agree to any demand, that can have an adverse effect on national sovereignty.
12 May 2021

A new intifada?

THE situation in the occupied territories over the past few days has been incendiary, with tensions boiling over as...
Updated 12 May 2021

SOP violations

ON Monday, Sindh Police officials were given a well-deserved slap on the wrist by a judicial magistrate in Karachi...