Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Insurgents in Farah

Yesterday, the Afghan National Army managed to retake Farah province's Bakwa district [see pdf map here]. The district had been taken by Taliban insurgents some three weeks ago.

The capture of Bakwa came amid insurgent attacks on several districts in Farah, starting with Gulistan district, next door to Bakwa district:

[Oct 30/07:] ...Local Taliban carried out the raid on Gulistan district of western Farah province on Monday night and were joined by about 400 rebels from neighbouring Helmand, provincial police chief Abdul Rehman Sarjang said.

"Police made a tactical retreat, the battle is ongoing now. ...

Taliban spokesman Yousuf Ahmadi claimed that the hardline movement's fighters had captured Gulistan. "We are in control of the district now," he said.

But the police chief denied the claim, saying that Afghan forces and NATO-led troops were being deployed in support of police "to retake total control." (link to AFP dispatch)
Five days later, Reuters says the battle still rages and has spread:
[Nov 3/07:] ...Afghan forces battled hundreds of Taliban fighters for a fifth day in the west of the country on Friday for control of two districts, and the chief of a third fretted his region might soon fall.

...as Afghan and foreign troops fought the insurgents around Gulistan this week, far from fleeing, the rebels gained more ground and captured the neighboring district of Bakwa on Wednesday.

"Gulistan district is still controlled by the Taliban," Ikramuddin Yawar, the police chief for western Afghanistan, told Reuters. "We want assistance from NATO to support us from the air." (link)
Note that is was during those five days of fighting in Farah (in an area rather close to Taliban stronghold Musa Qala in Helmand) that Taliban fighters struck on the other side of Helmand. That was the attack on Arghandab district, just north of Kandahar city (see Kandahar province districts map here). Recall further that the Arghandab attack followed the death of a NATO-friendly local strongman, and may have resulted in insurgents carting off the illegal weapons cache of the deceased.

As for Farah province, Reuters reported the retaking of Gulistan on Nov 9. (The third district in Farah which was taken by insurgents was given up almost immediately.)

Meanwhile, check this map, produced by the Senlis Council, depicting areas of insurgent control/threat in southern Afghanistan.

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