Afghan forces abandon Helmand

Afghan forces have pulled back from strongpoints in the southern province of Uruzgan, continuing a withdrawal which began last month when they abandoned two districts in the neighboring province of Helmand to the Taliban, officials said on Tuesday. Provincial government spokesman Dost Mohammad Nayab said around 100 troops and police had been pulled from checkpoints in two areas in Shahidi Hassas district and sent to the neighbouring district of Deh Rawud. The Afghan Taliban, seeking to topple the Western-backed government in Kabul and reimpose Islamic rule 15 years after they were ousted from power, said the move, which came after heavy fighting late on Monday, had left the entire area around the village of Yakhdan under their control. The decision to leave the posts follows months of heavy fighting with the Taliban, who have put government forces under heavy pressure across southern Afghanistan. “We want to create a reserve battalion in Deh Rawud and we may ask our soldiers and policemen from other districts also to leave their checkpoints,” Nayab said. Nayab said the withdrawal was prompted by a shortage of troops and police, worn down by combat losses and desertions. He said troop numbers in the province were about 1,000 short of their assigned strength while police were hundreds short.

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