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In Remote Afghan Corner, Besieged Afghan Troops Cry For Help

FILE: An Afghan army operation in Uruzgan.
FILE: An Afghan army operation in Uruzgan.

TARIN KOT, Afghanistan – Afghan troops besieged by the Taliban for more than a week in a remote district of central Afghanistan are desperate for reinforcements and help.

But in a scenario repeated across many rural regions of the vast mountainous country, their presence is threatened by relentless Taliban attacks. Army and police check posts, bases, and office buildings typically represent the Afghan government’s presence and control in the countryside.

Muhammad Saleem heads the Afghan National Army’s (ANA) infantry unit in Uruzgan’s Charchino district. He says they might have saved the district from falling but are exhausted after the weeklong fighting.

Early on August 6, Saleem told Radio Free Afghanistan that he lost three men in the fighting overnight and the firefight left him and seven others injured.

“I am so tired that I can barely talk, but still we don’t see any reinforcements despite being constantly told they are on their way,” he said in a brief telephone call. “It is very bad; we cannot leave our positions.”

Juma Gul heads the local office of Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security spy service. He told Radio Free Afghanistan that the Afghan security forces comprising the ANA and police troops are under complete siege. Gul said that so far 10 soldiers had been killed while another six were injured in the fighting while the Afghan forces have lost eight check posts to the insurgents.

The Taliban have so far refrained from commenting on the fighting in Charchino, which is also called Shaheed Hasas. It was not immediately possible to reach the insurgents for comment. The fighting is in line with the Taliban strategy of gradually overrunning rural areas after the drawdown of most NATO troops in late 2014. The insurgents also continue to launch spectacular attacks and assassination campaigns in Afghan cities.

In an August 6 statement, the insurgents vowed to disrupt the planned presidential election in September. “This election process is nothing more than a ploy to deceive the common people … for satisfying the ego of a limited number of sham politicians,” the insurgents’ statement said.

In the provincial capital Tarin Kot, however, Uruzgan Police Chief Mohammad Khitab Khanjari sees no immediate threat of a rapid advance. He told journalists that they have prevented Charchino from falling into insurgent hands by dispatching reinforcements and launching airstrikes against the Taliban.

“Its true that we face threats in Charchino, but we called in airstrikes from the center [Kabul],” he told reporters on August 6. “The information I have suggests that they carried out attacks, which inflicted losses on our enemies.”

Charchino is one of six Uruzgan districts. The mountainous agricultural region has been the scene of frequent fighting between government forces and the Taliban where the government presence is largely limited to the district center.

Abubakar Siddique wrote this story based on Sharifullah Sharafat’s reporting from Tarin Kot, Uruzgan.