Afghan official warns Helmand province may fall to Taliban

Mohamman Jan Rasulyaar, Zabul deputy provincial governor, delivers a speech during an Afghan Local Police validation ceremony at the Shinkai district center, Shinkai district, Aug. 27. The ceremony was held to officially recognize the area's ALP program. Photo by Chief Petty Officer Bill Mesta

The deputy governor of Afghanistan’s Helmand province warned government officials on Sunday that the province could fall to the Taliban after the death of 90 security forces members over the past two days.

According to deputy governor Mohammad Jan Rasulyar, the province, which British and American soldiers struggled to control for years, would be lost if President Ashraf Ghani doesn’t take urgent action.

“Your Excellency, Helmand is standing on the brink, and there is a serious need for you to come,” he wrote on Facebook.

The plea for help is similar to the situation that led to the fall of the city of Kunduz in September.

In Kunduz, the Taliban seized the city for several days before government forces regained control.

According to Reuters, if the Taliban take control of Helmand, it would be a blow to claims made by the Afghan government that their security forces, who have been fighting on their own since international troops were withdrawn, are in control of the insurgency.

Afghan Army spokesman Mohammad Rasool Zazai declined to comment on the post but said Helmand isn’t going to fall to the Taliban.

Police Chief Abul Rahman Sarjang said, “We have strong forces in Helmand. In some places, we leave areas for tactical reasons, but all forces are working together well, and very soon we will have major achievements to report.”

President Ghani is trying to re-open talks with the Taliban.

In the Facebook post, Rasulyar also wrote, “We don’t provide food and ammunition to our forces on time, do not evacuate our wounded and martyred soldiers from the battlefield, and foreign forces only watch the situation from their bases and don’t provide support.”

“Since Thursday, there had been 90 casualties near Gereshk, a junction on Highway 1 near the provincial capital Lashkar Gah, and in Sangin district to the north, a level of losses that was “an everyday issue”, Rasulyar added.

The Taliban detailed attacks on checkpoints and other operations including a suicide attack against a police chief on its website.

The fighting in Helmand has been very bad in recent weeks, and there are reports that U.S. Special Forces took part in the fighting.

The reports haven’t been confirmed by the NATO headquarters in Kabul.

Last week, a Pentagon report to Congress noted the major shortcomings of the Afghan security forces despite the billions of dollars spent on training and foreign aid.

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