ISLAMABAD - Afghan forces claim to have repulsed a Taliban attack on a district in Helmand province. The attack on Garmsir district Thursday night lasted until early Friday morning.
Omar Zawak, the provincial governor’s spokesman, said 16 insurgents were killed and nine were wounded. Local district officials told VOA that 11 Afghan security forces personnel also were killed and 18 others, including 10 members of the Afghan National Army, were wounded.
Fighting continued in Sangin district, which had been under a coordinated Taliban offensive since Monday. The Taliban detonated explosives in a tunnel near a military compound that is surrounded by civilian houses. They overran dozens of security outposts and killed dozens of Afghan security personnel in the intense fighting that ensued.
In the last 72 hours, U.S. forces have conducted approximately 25 airstrikes in and around the Sangin District Center. The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) has reinforced Sangin with additional troops and has recovered some of the checkpoints. The ANDSF continues to secure Sangin.
Regarding Garmsir, the ANDSF successfully defended the town with its own assets and retains control of the district center.
Helmand as hotspot
Helmand, the largest of 34 Afghan provinces, has seen the fiercest fighting during the last 15 years of war. Most of the province is under Taliban control, with the government only holding the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah, and a few surrounding district centers.
According to the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), the Taliban control eight of Helmand’s 14 districts.
Helmand is Afghanistan’s largest poppy-growing province and provides the lifeblood for the Taliban insurgency. The Taliban earn $1.2 billion annually from taxing poppy farmers nationwide according to the French news agency AFP.
An AFP report from Helmand last year described how farmers, who used to grow one poppy harvest a year, now grow up to three in one year with genetically modified seeds from China.
The United States has announced it would deploy a new group of about 300 troops to Helmand to help Afghan forces beat back the Taliban during the upcoming spring fighting season.
Afghan security forces also repulsed another attack in the Kot district of Nangarhar province carried out by Islamic State fighters. Twelve IS fighters were reportedly killed but official sources say five security personnel also died.
In its most recent quarterly report to the U.S. Congress, SIGAR warned that the Afghan government is losing territory to the Taliban and now controls less than 60 percent of the country.