Following a days-long offensive, Afghan security forces have wrested a key district from Taliban militants in Afghanistan’s northern Takhar province, officials said Sunday.
Afghan forces hoisted the national flag in the main square of the district two and a half months after its capture by the Taliban.
According to Afghan Gen. Murad Ali Murad, security forces -- backed by air power -- entered Takhar’s Darqad district early Sunday morning after three days of heavy fighting which saw casualties on both sides.
"Afghan forces are now in control of the strategic district, where the Taliban presence had drawn concern from Tajikistan," said Murad, who led the operation.
The Darqad district, a small island in the Oxus River on the Tajikistan border, had been used by both Taliban militants and drug smugglers as a jumping pad into the central Asian states, particularly Tajikistan.
Provincial police chief Noor Mohammad Hakimi told Anadolu Agency by phone that security forces had recovered a number of armored vehicles and weapons that the Taliban captured some 75 days ago.
"At least 22 Taliban militants were killed in the operation since Friday, while the rest have fled to a forested area on Tajikistani territory," Hakimi said.
"The Taliban’s shadow governor for the Yangi Qala district and a local Taliban commander were among those killed," he added.
According to Hakimi, one Afghan soldier was killed and two others injured in the operation.
The Taliban, for their part, have yet to comment on the development.
The reported victory by Afghan national security forces follows earlier failures to defend strategic districts and towns in the country’s southern Helmand province.
The Taliban have recently waged a number of major offensives in which they have captured vast swathes of the province and killed dozens of Afghan troops and at least one U.S. soldier.
Following the Taliban’s recent advances, the Pentagon announced plans to dispatch 500 additional soldiers in what will be the first U.S. troop deployment to Afghanistan since most international forces left the country last year.
© Copyright Andolu Ajansi