Taliban captured Afghan District of Sangin

Friday, 24 March, 2017 - 14:15

The Taliban captured the strategic district of Sangin in the southern province of Helmand on Thursday, according to local officials. It was the culmination of a yearslong offensive that took the lives of more combatants than any other fight for territory in Afghanistan.

While spokesmen for the central government denied claims by the Taliban that the district had fallen to them, some conceded that the insurgents had overrun the district center and government facilities. But local Afghan government and military officials said there was no doubt Sangin had finally fallen to their enemy.

A spokesman for the American military, Capt. William K. Salvin, played down the development, saying Afghan security forces were still in the district and had merely moved its seat of government. “They repositioned the district center,” he said. “This move to a new district center has been planned for some time.”

More British troops and, later, American Marines died in Sangin than in any of Afghanistan’s roughly 400 other districts, until the international military coalition began turning it over to Afghan military forces in 2013. Since then, hundreds of Afghan soldiers and police officers have lost their lives defending Sangin, while American Special Operations soldiers and aerial bombing tried to prevent the collapse of the district, apparently without success.

By 2016, four districts in Helmand were under Taliban control, but a series of attacks on Lashkar Gah took some of the pressure off Sangin.

Then, this past winter, the insurgents seemed to redouble their efforts to take the district. In late January, the American military confirmed making 10 airstrikes in and around the town of Sangin over 24 hours. The insurgents had tunneled under the Afghan battalion’s base there, setting off a huge explosion that killed more than 40 Afghan soldiers, one of the military’s biggest losses of life in a single attack. American air support prevented the insurgents from overrunning the center. (Officials variously put the death toll at 10 and 25 at the time.)

In response to the worsening situation in Helmand Province over all, the American military has announced plans to redeploy 300 Marines to the area this spring, the first time Marines will have been deployed in Afghanistan since leaving Sangin in 2014.

Source: The New York Times.