© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: US Army handover ceremony at Camp Anthonic to the Afghan Defense Forces in Helmand province, Afghanistan, May 2, 2021. Photo taken May 2, 2021. Press office of the Ministry of Defense / Brochure via REUTERS
By Zainullah Stanekzai LASHKAR GAH (Reuters) – Afghan security forces fought a major Taliban offensive in southern Helmand province in the past 24 hours, officials and residents said Tuesday, as militants launched attacks across the country after The United States missed the deadline to withdraw the troops. . Although the United States did not meet the May 1 withdrawal deadline agreed to in talks with the Taliban last year, its withdrawal has begun, with President Joe Biden announcing that all troops will withdraw on September 11. the militants will try to return to power. “There was a storm of heavy weapons and explosions in the city and the sound of small arms was like someone was making popcorn,” Mulah Jan, a resident of a suburb of the provincial capital Lashkar Gah, told Reuters. “I led all my family members to the corner of the room, listening to the loud bursts and bursts of gunfire as if it were happening behind our walls,” he said. Families who could afford to leave had fled, but he had not been able to go, waiting with his family in fear before the Taliban were driven back. Attaullah Afghan, the head of the Helmand provincial council, said the Taliban had launched their massive offensive on Monday from multiple directions, attacking checkpoints on the outskirts of Lashkar Gah, taking some of them. Afghan security forces launched airstrikes and deployed elite commando forces to the area. The insurgents had been driven back, but fighting continued Tuesday and hundreds of families had been displaced, he added. RESONANCE A rise in the Taliban in Helmand would have particular resonance, as the desert province where opium is grown was where American and British forces suffered most of their losses during the 20-year war. As part of the withdrawal, US forces handed over a base in Helmand to Afghan troops two days ago. The Afghan Defense Ministry said that in addition to Helmand, security forces have been responding to Taliban attacks in at least six other provinces, including southeastern Ghazni and southern Kandahar in the past 24 hours. The Defense Ministry said that just over 100 Taliban fighters had died in Helmand. He did not provide details on casualties among Afghan security forces. The Taliban did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The May 1 deadline for US troops to withdraw was agreed last year under former President Donald Trump. The Taliban rejected Biden’s announcement that the troops would stay further but would withdraw for the next four and a half months. The deadline has been met with an increase in violence, with a car bomb in Logar province killing nearly 30 people on Friday night. At least seven Afghan servicemen were killed when the Taliban detonated explosives smuggled through a tunnel they had dug at an army outpost in southwestern Farah province on Monday.