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Taliban Are Nearing Control of Key District

The New York Times 06 September, 2014
Local Afghan officials say more than 200 police officers and soldiers have been killed during a fierce Taliban offensive in Helmand Province that has lasted all summer and now threatens to overwhelm a key district.
Officials at the national level have downplayed the violence and even, in some cases, flatly denied that there is a problem. But local military, police and government officials, including two Afghan generals, have said in recent days that they are unsure their forces can continue to hold out against the offensive, which has been underway since June in Sangin district in northern Helmand and in neighboring Musa Qala, unless they get more support from national authorities and international forces.

Authorities are particularly worried about Musa Qala, a traditional Taliban stronghold and a source of revenue from the lucrative opium poppy trade. “The situation is deteriorating and the Taliban are almost in the bazaar,” the governor of Musa Qala district, Haji-Mohammad Sharif, said Friday night. “If the situation remains the same, the district will soon fall to the hands of the Taliban.”

In all, the general said, 71 Afghan National Army soldiers have been killed and 214 wounded since June, while 159 police officers have been killed and 219 wounded in Sangin District. That total of 230 deaths would exceed the number of British and American marines killed in Sangin during the entire war, and both countries lost more military personnel in Sangin than in any other Afghan district.
“The total casualties in the Sangin battle is 900 including civilians,” Omar Zwak, the spokesman for the governor of Helmand Province, said on Saturday. “Around 150 would be Afghan security forces.” He would not say how many of those casualties were fatalities. Mr. Zwak said that Taliban insurgents had been on the verge of attacking the Musa Qala center in recent days but have now been beaten back, which the local governor disputed.
In Musa Qala, according to the governor there, 50 police officers have been killed or wounded.
A spokesman for the coalition, Maj. Paul L. Greenberg of the Marine Corps, said air support had been given to Afghan forces in Sangin. “ISAF has received those requests and ISAF has provided aviation support accordingly in Sangin District over the past several months, to include support over the past several weeks,” he said, referring to the International Security Assistance Force.
Qari Yousef Ahmadi, a spokesman for the Taliban in southern Afghanistan, said the insurgents were using more ground assaults in northern Helmand because they no longer had to worry about airstrikes from American and British forces