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50 soldiers died defending Helmand: Officials

AT Monitoring Desk-KABUL: Fifty soldiers were killed and several others went missing over the past two weeks in the ongoing conflict in the southern Helmand province, local officials said Sunday.

The provincial governor Hayatullah Hayat said the initial investigations indicate that at least 50 soldiers died in the line of duty, some others wounded and nearly 50 of them had disappeared.

Hayat said that military operations were underway to clear all parts of the province from the Taliban insurgents.

“Security forces have launched operations on Sunday night in Lashkargah city in which at least 88 Taliban insurgents were killed and many villages were cleared,” he added, referring to the provincial capital.

Afghan officials claim that Pakistan is trying to shift headquarters of the Taliban from Quetta to Helmand province. To establish a firm foothold in the restive province, the insurgent groups, along with its affiliates, have launched several attacks this year which led to heavy casualties and internal displacement.

In late-August, the provincial government told a local news channel that amid growing international pressure, Pakistan’s spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) is trying to move the Taliban’s Quetta Shura to Helmand.

He said the security forces have foiled ISI’s venture to relocate the insurgent group’s Quetta council.

“International pressure has increased on Pakistan. Therefore Pakistan thinks that Helmand at this juncture is the best place for members of the Quetta Shura, hence Pakistan is trying to transfer Quetta Shura to Helmand, but we are preventing it,” TOLOnews quoted the governor.

Meanwhile, a number of residents said they were tired of insecurity and conflicts and wanted an end to the conflict.

“People have suffered a lot. Their homes have been destroyed, even they have lost their families and friends,” said Ali Reza, a resident of Lashkargah city.

This comes as security forces lost 900 members in a single month-July-this year as they fought the Taliban insurgents, the US commander of international forces in Afghanistan Gen. John Nicholson said in early September.

“This is almost a brigade of soldiers and police, and we should not forget for one minute the sacrifices that they are making even as we live today,” Nicholson said.

This comes after the Afghan government repeatedly urged Pakistan to take military action against the Taliban and Haqqani Network. When the Quadrilateral Coordination Group was formed, Islamabad promised to use force against all those Afghan militants who would reject the peace process.

The Taliban were quick in rejecting the peace opportunity offered by the four-nation group, comprising of Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the United States.

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