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As Fighting Intensifies In Northern Afghanistan, Deputies Head To Front Lines

Afghan forces have killed and injured more than 70 Taliban militants in Faryab Province.
Afghan forces have killed and injured more than 70 Taliban militants in Faryab Province.

Fierce fighting continues in northern Afghanistan's Faryab Province and according to one member of parliament from the region, the militants have the upper hand and the situation is close to disastrous.

Afghan lawmaker Naqibullah Fayiq spoke to RFE/RL's Turkmen Service, known locally as Azatlyk, on July 13. Fayiq and another parliament member, Fathullah Qaysary, were in Faryab to assess the situation, bring what material supplies they could, and lend moral support to pro-government militiamen who Fayiq claimed were the last effective fighting force in the province.

Fayiq said there has been fighting for the last week along the highway that connects Faryab's provincial capital Maymana to provinces further east and also in the Almar district.

He claimed several villages had already fallen to the Taliban and their foreign militant allies and that dozens of other villages were in danger of being captured soon.

Fayiq said that, in the Almar district, enemy forces have surrounded an area where some 3,000 families live. The lawmaker said there is a paramilitary force of some 400 fighters resisting the militant advance there, but that, according to his information, as many as some 4,000 militants had gathered in Faryab to participate in attacks.

The militia had set up 30 military posts in the Almar area to counter the Taliban but, after one week of fighting the militiamen, they only control two of the posts, according to Fayiq. He said five posts were overrun in the previous 24 hours.

Fayiq told Azatlyk that the militiamen were running out of ammunition and added part of his trip to the province was to bring what ammunition he could collect in Kabul to the pro-government fighters.

Fayiq could not provide specific casualty figures, but he said dozens had been killed and wounded on both sides. He said that, without help from the government, the militia would fall, possibly within the next 24 hours. Fayiq said the militants have delivered an ultimatum to the militiamen to surrender and lay down their arms or face defeat, capture, and decapitation.

Fayiq said that he and others in Faryab had requested military help from Kabul, but that so far none had arrived.

Asked about the situation along the border with Turkmenistan, Fayiq responded that militants had already seized several villages along that border and were preparing for assaults on other villages.

Fayiq also relayed information from the Faryab governor's office that there were many "foreign" fighters involved in the latest campaign.

"There are militants from various countries, most are from Uzbekistan, but there are Kazakhs, Arabs, and Chechens," he said, adding, "The enemy forces are led by these foreign fighters."

-- Muhammad Tahir, the director of RFE/RL's Turkmen Service, contributed to this report

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    Bruce Pannier

    Bruce Pannier writes the Qishloq Ovozi blog and appears regularly on the Majlis podcast for RFE/RL.