Taliban Fails to Take Helmand Capital in Latest Offensive

Afghan forces aimed to retake districts in counterattack

The Taliban has made another bid to seize a provincial capital this week, launching a major offensive against Lashkar Gah, in Helmand Province. This has long been a goal of the Taliban, as Helmand is a major opium farming province.

This offensive has failed, according to officials, who say at least 70 Taliban were killed in the attempt over two days. Over 100 other Taliban were reported injured, and while there was no official count, there were supposedly dozens of government casualties as well.

Fighting isn’t over, with the Afghan government continuing an offensive along 601 highway, aiming to reclaims parts of Helmand in a counterattack. They seem upbeat on their chances, and have US backing.

All this fighting certainly imperils the peace talks, and it is surprising to see the US directly involved given how rapidly the US is pulling out. The control of Helmand has been a long-term matter, and it’s surprising to see both sides risking the talks over this.

The most near-term impact is on civilians, with fighting across Helmand leading to tens of thousands of newly displaced civilians taking flight. Hospitals were overwhelmed by injured civilians, and little effort being made to accommodate this latest wave of people, just one of many who fled from fighting over the last 19 years.

US officials responded to this violence by demanding the Taliban stop fighting, though at this point it appears to be Afghan government and US forces driving the fighting, and likely to drive the Taliban to a counter-counter-attack in the same long-contested area.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for Antiwar.com. He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.