The problem is common in restive Helmand province more than anywhere in the country, and is therefore greeted with criticism by tribal leaders and civil activists who also complain that security strategies for Helmand are changed very quickly, undermining the moral of Afghan forces.
Lately, Afghan forces have launched an operation to retake Helmand’s Nawa district located some 15 kilometers away from the provincial capital, Lashkargah, which was overrun by the militants a year ago.
On 22 March 2017, ANDSF left Sangin district to the rebels who still control it. Tens of members of Afghan forces have lost their lives to capture the district. Similarly, in January 2017, Marja district also fell to the Taliban, and all attempts to recapture the district have failed since then.
Hajji Nanai, a tribal elder from Helmand, said one or two major operations were launched in a month or two in seven districts of the province, but the Taliban were able to retake the areas they lost to government forces in operations so that was why the situation in Helmand was rather deteriorating. "We don’t know what the plan of the government is, and what it wants to do."
Nanai said the security plans of local officials were also being changed unnecessarily and in a short term. "One day, officials announce they will increase aerial attacks, while they say ground operations are useful the following day, and yet they plan to retreat from areas another day.”
Ismail Shariatyar, a Helmand-based civil activist, revealed there were some areas in Nad Ali, Kajaki, Marja and Musa Qala districts which government forces were taking once, and then leaving back to the Taliban.
He mentioned Zeer Sahib and Loy Manda regions in Nawa district and Marja square and some areas in Musa Qala which had been seized in operations and then left back to the Taliban by Afghan forces.
Shariatyar said the Taliban currently held sway over complete six Helmand districts, including Baghran, Khanshin, Musa Qala, Deshu and Nawa, and controlled some parts the remaining seven districts.
Although local authorities promised to reveal names of areas abandoned to insurgents after operations over the course of the past two years, they later on refused to disclose the information.
The Ministry of Defense (MoD), however, rejects the retreat of Afghan forces from regions captured from the Taliban in operations in Helmand. "Our forces don’t conduct such operations in which they retreat from the captured areas. Our military units rather establish bases in those areas," said MoD spokesman Dawlat Waziri, adding that Afghan forces have retaken some areas of Nawa district, and operations were still underway.
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