The clashes in Bala Murghab district in the northwestern Badghis province entered their fifth day on Monday with reports of “heavy casualties” to militants.
The clashes have so far displaced “thousands” of families according to local residents. Most of the families have settled in the center of Badghis and in Herat province.
According to Defense Ministry spokesman Qais Mangal, at least 100 Taliban militants have been killed and 35 others have been wounded in the clashes.
Residents and former MPs interviewed by TOLOnews said the situation is still “unstable” in Bala Murghab – which is a strategic district in Badghis and shares borders with Turkmenistan.
However, the Acting Minister of Interior Massoud Andarabi at a gathering on Monday said “the situation is coming back to normal in Badghis” following “massive” air and ground operations by the Afghan forces.
Other lawmakers claimed that at least 250 military personnel have surrendered to the Taliban over the past five days as they came under pressure by the Taliban. The Ministry of Defense has rejected the claims as baseless.
The Taliban entered key parts of the district last week, including the police headquarters, which is close to the Army camp, where hundreds of forces are stationed. But they were pushed back after airstrikes conducted by Afghan forces in support of coalition troops.
The Ministry of Defense confirmed on Monday that at least 12 Afghan security force members were killed in the clashes.
“Bala Murghab is a strategic point from where Herat and Faryab provinces can be influenced,” said Mirza Mohammad Yarmand, former Deputy Minister of Interior.
Bala Murghab is surrounded by some other volatile districts such as Ab Kamari, Muqur, Jawand and Qadis.
“It is a strategically important location, so it has strategic importance for the Taliban,” said Abdul Basir Osmani, an MP.
A former MP from Badghis, Qazi Abdul Rahim, said the appointment of “corrupt” figures in security leadership of the provinces has led the district with the fate it faced today.
“They (security agencies) appoint ‘smugglers, thieves and useless people’ as commanders or officials in the province and they cannot come together with the people,” Rahim claimed.
Security officials still argue that the evacuation of the district was aimed at preventing further harm to civilians.
“We tried to protect the innocent people there to avoid casualties, so we had a tactical retreat from there to avoid harms to people’s lives and properties,” said Mohammad Ibrahim Fazli, Commander of 2nd Brigade of Afghan National Army in Badghis.
Last time, Bala Murghab came under Taliban attack early in March and was under siege for more than two weeks, leaving more than two dozens of security forces dead and almost 28 of them gone missing.
This comes as the conflicts have intensified in different parts of the country with the arrival of the spring season – which is deemed as a usual fighting season for insurgents fighting the Afghan government forces.