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Taliban launch massive Afghan offensive after US withdrawal deadline




Afghan security forces repelled a massive Taliban offensive in southern Helmand province in the past 24 hours, officials and residents said on Tuesday, as militants launched assaults on the country in the wake of the failure to meet the US deadline for troop withdrawal.

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 leave by September 11th. the militants will try to return to power.

“There was a heavy weapons thunderstorm and explosions in the city and the sound of small arms was like someone was making popcorn,” Mulah Jan, a resident of a suburb, told Reuters. the provincial capital Lashkar Gah.

“I took all of my family to a corner of the room, hearing the loud explosions and bursts of gunfire as if it was happening behind our walls,” he said. Families who could afford to leave had fled, but he was unable to leave, waiting with his family in fear before the Taliban were driven back.

Attaullah Afghan, the head of the Helmand Provincial Council, said the Taliban launched their massive offensive from several directions on Monday, attacking checkpoints around the outskirts of Lashkar Gah, taking control of some of them.

Afghan security forces had launched airstrikes and deployed elite commandos in the area. The insurgents were pushed back but fighting continued on Tuesday and hundreds of families were displaced, he added.

Handover ceremony at Camp Anthonic, US Army to Afghan Defense Forces in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, May 2, 2021. Photo taken May 2, 2021. Department of Defense Press Office / Document via REUTERS

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A Taliban push into Helmand would have a special resonance, as the desert province where opium grows was where American and British forces suffered most of their losses in the 20 Years War.

As part of the withdrawal, US forces ceded a base in Helmand to Afghan troops two days ago.

The Afghan Defense Ministry said that in addition to Helmand, security forces have responded to Taliban attacks in at least six other provinces, including southeast Ghazni and southern Kandahar over the past 24 hours. hours.

The Defense Ministry said just over 100 Taliban fighters were killed in Helmand. He did not provide details of casualties among Afghan security forces. The Taliban did not immediately respond to the request for comment.

The May 1 deadline for the withdrawal of US troops was agreed last year under former President Donald Trump. The Taliban rejected Biden’s announcement that troops would stay beyond but pull out over the next four and a half months. Read more

The deadline was met by an upsurge in violence, with a car bomb in Logar province killing nearly 30 people on Friday evening. At least seven Afghan servicemen were killed when the Taliban set off explosives smuggled into a tunnel they dug in an army outpost in southwest Farah province on Monday. Read more

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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