Afghan aid workers have witnessed a dramatic increase in combat deaths in a restive southeastern province where the Taliban militants control most of the countryside while Afghan forces defend the provincial capital and a patchwork of small towns and outposts.
Abdul Aleem Noori, head of the Afghanistan Red Crescent Society in Ghazni, says that compared with previous years they have recorded a manifold increase in combat casualties as their organization often performs the grim task of transporting the dead bodies of the warring sides.
“Compared with previous years, we have seen a large increase in deaths on the battlefield this year,” he told Radio Free Afghanistan. “This year, we have so far handled 415 corpses of combatants, which is a staggering increase compared with 60 or 70 dead bodies in the previous years.”
Noori says the number is even large because these 415 deaths are separate from the hundreds of civilians and combatants killed during the fighting when the Taliban briefly overran the provincial capital, also called Ghazni, in August.
Strategically located, the historic region borders eight Afghan provinces and is near Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces. One of Afghanistan’s major roads connects the capital Kabul to the second city Kandahar in the south through Ghazni.
Currently one of the most volatile regions in the country, Ghazni was home to the resurgence of the Taliban a couple years after a U.S.-led military intervention toppled their hard-line regime for hosting Al-Qaeda terrorists in late 2001 following the 9/11 attacks in the United States.
Last month, insecurity in the region forced Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission to cancel voting in the region for this week’s parliamentary election.