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Taliban overrun district in volatile Uruzgan province

By CHAD GARLAND | STARS AND STRIPES Published: June 14, 2016

KABUL, Afghanistan — Taliban fighters have overrun much of a remote district in southern Uruzgan province amid heavy fighting in which the international coalition was providing support to government forces, officials said Tuesday.

Abdul Karim Khadimzai, head of Uruzgan’s provincial council, said fighting had been ongoing for several days in Charchino district before insurgents captured the district center Monday night.

“There was a serious fight near the district town for a few days and it was captured by the Taliban last night,” he said, adding that the Taliban also captured the governor’s office and police headquarters.

In an online statement, the Taliban claim they launched the assault at 9 p.m. Monday night and fought until 4 a.m. Tuesday, taking the police station and two other outposts.

But Dost Mohammad Nayab, spokesman for the provincial governor said that only the police building had fallen after government forces left it in a “tactical move.” The district governor’s office is still under the control of government forces after four days of fighting, he said.

“There is a heavy fight going on at the district town right now,” he said. “We sent additional forces including 100 special forces men after it got really intense two days ago.”

Nayab said the fighters were being supported by coalition air support. Coalition officials did not immediately respond to inquiries about airstrikes or other support from the NATO-led Resolute Support mission.

Afghanistan has nearly 400 districts divided between its 34 provinces. District centers are usually a collection of small dwellings centered around a walled government compound.

Earlier this month, Brig. Gen. Charles Cleveland, the U.S. military spokesman in Kabul, told reporters that “there has been an awful lot of fighting” in Uruzgan.He said that a “handful” of international advisors and Special Operations forces were aiding government forces there whose offensive operations were being hampered by Taliban fighters.

The success of government forces in the province has “a lot of importance to the Afghans and therefore it’s very important to us,” Cleveland said.

Publicly disclosed rules of engagement generally allow U.S. airstrikes on Taliban targets in self-defense or “in extremis” — to prevent a setback for the Afghan military.

The latest clashes in Uruzgan have left 76 Taliban fighters dead and another 36 wounded, Nayab said, while 12 Afghan security forces members were killed and five wounded. The Taliban, on the other hand, claim 53 Afghan security forces members and four Taliban fighters were killed.

Districts that fall under Taliban control are often retaken fairly quickly once reinforcements and supportive forces arrive.

Zubair Babakarkhail contributed to this report.

garland.chad@stripes.com
Twitter: @chadgarland

 

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