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Fighting Forces Thousands To Flee Northern Afghan Province

FILE: Internally displaced civilians in Faryab Province.
FILE: Internally displaced civilians in Faryab Province.

ANDKHOY, Afghanistan -- Ongoing fighting between government forces and the Taliban insurgents has forced tens of thousands of civilians to flee their homes in a restive northern Afghan province.

Officials and residents in Faryab, a rural province that borders Turkmenistan, say ongoing clashes in the once-peaceful Andkhoy and Qurghan districts have prompted a mass exodus.

On December 18, hundreds of civilians were scrambling to find transport out of Andkhoy. They had gathered in the dusty town after fleeing their homes in the nearby villages of Qurghan, Deheqchee Khana, Akhtachee, and Tuquzdarak.

“We estimate that the fighting between government forces and the Taliban has displaced an estimated 5,000 families from Andkhoy and Qurghan,” Sayed Aslam, the district administrator of Andkhoy, told Radio Free Afghanistan.

The weeklong fighting has created a new humanitarian crisis in the remote province. Taliban factions and Islamic State militants have wreaked havoc in recent years by controlling remote districts in Faryab and neighboring Jawzjan districts. Insurgents control large parts of these regions, which are predominantly populated by ethnic Uzbeks and Turkmens.

Local aid workers and charities are fighting hard to feed the displaced residents. Maulan Akbary, an activist in Andkhoy, says the impoverished region is fighting hard to look after displaced civilians.

“We are doing our best to accommodate the displaced at schools, offices, and guesthouses,” he told Radio Free Afghanistan.

In Kabul, Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi, speaker of the Wolesi Jirga or lower house of the parliament, called on the authorities to do their best to help civilians.

“We call on our government’s security and defense departments to help the residents of the provinces of Bamiyan, Daikundi, and Faryab, where fighting has intensified in recent days,” he told lawmakers on December 19.

But the displaced residents of Faryab have seen little assistance. Jalaluddin, a displaced resident of Faryab who goes by one name only, says they have largely been ignored. “We just received a little wheat flour, but we need a lot more help,” he said.

Afghan military officials in the region say the Afghan Army’s Shaheen Corps are currently engaged in a large-scale offensive named Isar 10, which aims to combat insurgents in Faryab, Jawzjan, and neighboring Sar-e Pol Province.

Earlier this week, General Mohammad Wali Ahmadzai, commander of the Shaheen Corps, said the offensive aims to beat insurgents and reopen a major road that links Faryab’s capital, Maimana, to Jawzjan and the rest of the country.

“With support from [NATO’s] Resolute Support troops, this offensive is moving ahead at full force,” he told journalists.

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