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Taliban Captures Key District In Helmand Province After Afghan Forces Pull Out


FILE Afghan soldiers fighting the Taliban militants during an operation in December 2015

Local officials in Afghanistan's southern province of Helmand say Taliban fighters captured the strategic district of Sangin on March 23 without a shot being fired after government forces pulled out of the area.

Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman, said the militant group captured the police headquarters and a military base overnight, seizing military equipment left behind by retreating government forces.

A spokesman for Helmand's governor said Afghan forces made a "tactical withdrawal" from the district center to avoid civilian casualties.

Another Afghan official said U.S.-backed forces conducted air strikes in the district to destroy equipment left behind.

Sangin was the site of intense fighting for years after the collapse of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

More U.S. and British soldiers were killed while defending Sangin than in any of Afghanistan’s 400 other provincial districts.

The district, which accounts for the bulk of Afghanistan’s opium production, is strategically placed between the Helmand River and neighboring Kandahar Province.

U.S. and NATO forces handed over responsibility for the security of Sangin to Afghan government forces in 2013.

Since then, Afghan forces have struggled against Taliban and other extremists throughout Afghanistan.

According to U.S. estimates, the Afghan government now controls less than 60 percent of the territory across the country.

Based on reporting by AP, Reuters, The Washington Post, and The New York Times

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