In a shift of their attention from rural areas to capital cities, the Taliban conducted heavy attacks on the centers of Lashkargah city in Helmand and Sheberghan city in Jawzjan province in the last 24 hours, entering some key government facilities.
In Jawzjan, the group made some progress until Friday afternoon, but soon they were pushed back from the city.
The Defense Ministry in a statement late on Friday evening said the center of Sheberghan city was retaken by Afghan troops -- who were supported by Air Force and the local forces loyal to former vice president Abdul Rashid Dostum.
Jawzjan lawmakers said that heavy fighting was underway near the police headquarters, the office of the intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security (NDS), and the governor’s office in Sheberghan.
Mawlavi Abdul Hai, a member of the Jawzjan provincial council, said the security agencies are not paying the required attention to the province.
“Jawzjan is also part of the geography of Afghanistan,” he said.
“The soldiers who fought for three or four months in Jawzjan were killed or wounded today. For God's sake, when you will address the issue of Sheberghan?” said MP Halima Sadaf Rahimi.
In Helmand, meanwhile, fighting continues in Lashkargah city’s District 1. Videos on social media show shops have caught fire in the ongoing clashes between government forces and the Taliban.
“What the central government is doing? Stop the violence,” said Mahmoud Khan, a civil society activist in Helmand.
“Civilians have been killed there. Government forces have been killed. Taliban have been killed, but no one is there to address this problem,” said Akhtar Mohammad, a presidential adviser.
Taliban attacked Lashkargah city a week ago, but the Afghan Special Forces launched an operation to repel their attack.
Helmand residents said there has been no progress in the operations in terms of pushing back the Taliban from strategic areas in the city.
“Afghan forces conducted air and ground operations in Jawzjan and Helmand. Our operations will continue,” Defense Ministry spokesman Rohullah Ahmadzai said.
The Defense Ministry said that 406 Taliban fighters 209 more were wounded in Afghan forces operations in various parts of the country in the last 24 hours. Taliban has rejected the claim.
There were casualties among security forces as well. Sources said that at least 10 security force members, including a security officer for Farah, were killed in the province.
Moreover, five civilians were killed in a mortar attack in Maidan Wardak district, local sources said. The government blamed the Taliban for the attack.