Taleban capture western Afghanistan district in fresh setback for US-backed security forces

An Afghan National Army soldier fires an artillery shell during an ongoing anti-Taleban operation in Farah province on Jan 28, 2018. On March 12, 2018, the Taleban overran a western district in the province.
An Afghan National Army soldier fires an artillery shell during an ongoing anti-Taleban operation in Farah province on Jan 28, 2018. On March 12, 2018, the Taleban overran a western district in the province.PHOTO: AFP

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN (NYTIMES) - The Taleban captured a district in western Afghanistan on Monday (March 12), officials said, as security continues to deteriorate in the besieged province of Farah.

The fall of the district, Anardarah, came days after Afghan security forces suffered heavy casualties in another district of Farah, which borders Iran and is situated on one of the country's most lucrative drug routes.

Afghan and Western officials warn that the country's security could further deteriorate in the coming year, even as the US military finds itself drawn deeper into the war, with additional military advisers arriving to help Afghan forces.

The Taleban have yet to show any interest in a comprehensive peace offer made recently by the Afghan government.

Mr Dadullah Qani, a member of the Farah provincial council, said Taleban fighters stormed Anardarah district, which used to be a safe area, and overran a number of government compounds in the district centre early on Monday.

"The district governor's compound and police headquarters are near the southern entrance of the district, and both are overrun by the Taleban," Mr Qani said. "There are casualties to the police, but we lost contact with them and we have no idea about their condition, including the police chief of the district."

Mr Mohammad Naseer Mehri, a spokesman for the governor of Farah, said the attack began around 4am and the Taleban had managed to enter the governor's compound and seize it.

"We sent more troops to the district and also called in air power to take part in ongoing fighting to halt the Taleban's progress," Mr Mehri said.

US officials have warned that the country's security situation could further deteriorate in the coming year, adding to further political instability.

The Afghan government, marred by infighting, has struggled to hold long delayed elections, and it faces an increasingly vocal opposition.

"The overall situation in Afghanistan probably will deteriorate modestly this year in the face of persistent political instability, sustained attacks by the Taleban-led insurgency, unsteady Afghan National Security Forces performance, and chronic financial shortfalls," Mr Dan Coats, director of National Intelligence, told the US Senate last week.