Clashes between government forces and the Taliban in Lashkargah and surrounding areas have entered their fifth day. In the latest development, at least nine people were killed when two Afghan National Army (ANA) MI-17 helicopters "crashed due to technical issues" in Nawa district of Helmand early on Wednesday morning, the Ministry of Defense (MoD) said.
Amid deteriorating security, Afghan acting Minister of Defense Assadullah Khalild on Wednesday visited Lashkargah where he pledged to improve the security situation.
Clashes have been ongoing in several parts of Lashkargah, the capital of Helmand, and Nadi Ali district. The Taliban began their attacks on the city and other districts on the weekend.
On Monday night, Afghan commandos with air support launched an operation in Lashkargah, according to local officials.
On Tuesday, officials said there was fighting on the 601 highway and in Nad Ali district and the Babaji area in PD4 of Lashkargah. So far 23 Taliban have been killed and the security forces have created five new checkpoints in Nad Ali district following the Taliban attacks, officials said.
In Helmand, acting Minister Khalid confirmed that the ANA helicopters had crashed and nine people were killed.
“We are not at the frontline, the operation is underway, the new operation has started, we have also had some achievements, we are deploying in our checkpoints,” said Yasin Khan, the governor of Helmand province.
“We are ready to sacrifice our life for the sake of this country.” said an ANA soldier in Helmand.
Over the past few days, the Taliban managed to take over several checkpoints in PD4 of Lashkargah city and in some areas of Nawa and Nad-e-Ali.
“You can see that Helmand youth are struggling shoulder-to-shoulder alongside their security forces to crush the enemies of the motherland. They are the youth of Helmand and the country,” said General Nazar, a commander of the Afghan National Army (ANA)
Meanwhile, local sources in Helmand have said that a local force (Sangorian) which operates within the government defense structure was responsible for security along parts of the Helmand-Kandahar highway and the Lashkargah security belt, and"these forces evacuated their check posts without any resistance."
Sources said that the evacuation paved the way for the Taliban to infiltrate the Kandahar-Helmand highway and the city outskirts.
There are 2,000 fighters serving in the Sangorian force. They only operate in Helmand province.
“We are familiar with all tactics of the Taliban, we also operate in their uniform and fight against them,” said Samiullah, a member of the Sangorian force.
“We have the same uniform as (the Taliban) have, they do not recognize us, we even ate food once with them, they didn’t recognize us, but we left the scene after killing our targets,” said Sediqullah, a member of the Sangorian force.
“It has been created by the NDS. In many cases, they have been proved very useful, but the collapse of some checkpoints recently came due to lack of weapons,” said Attaullah Afghan, the head of Helmand provincial council.
“The Sangorians don't have the capacity to hold their ground,” said Senator Hashem Alokozay.
Footage shared on social media show some of the Sangorian forces surrendering to the Taliban.
“If a checkpoint is overrun without resistance, it means they have surrendered to the enemy,” said Atiqullah Amarkhel, a military expert in Kabul.
It is said that the Sangorian military forces are supported by the National Directorate of Security (NDS), Afghanistan's intelligence agency.
Initially, there were 100 soldiers serving in the force, but the Helmand governor has said the group was later deployed to take responsibility for the security of Lashkargah after they proved their strength.