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Afghan troops abandon 200 checkpoints to Taleban

Shoppers crowd at a market in Herat. – AFP

KANDAHAR: Afghan security personnel have abandoned nearly 200 checkpoints in restive Kandahar province in recent weeks, officials said yesterday, in some cases leaving behind their weapons to be seized by the Taleban. Kandahar provincial governor Hayatullah Hayat and a local lawmaker separately confirmed the situation, saying commanders would be disciplined for their actions.

The defense ministry in Kabul denied the reports, insisting government forces had been making progress in the region. Government forces and the Taleban have clashed regularly in Kandahar province since October despite peace talks between the warring sides.

“Afghan security forces have retreated from 193 checkpoints and outposts in Zharai, Maiwand, Arghandab and Panjwai districts,” Kandahar provincial governor Hayatullah Hayat said. “Most of the security chiefs and officers who neglected their duties have been dismissed and referred to the judiciary.” Kandahar lawmaker Hashim Alkhozai and a local police officer confirmed the details to AFP.

“The security forces exited the bases leaving behind their weapons and ammunition,” Alkhozai said. Most of those who left were soldiers, said Jan Mohammad, a policeman from Zharai district. “They left without firing a bullet,” he said. “The Taleban now have all the weapons seized from the army and are using them against us.”

Governor Hayat blamed “poor coordination” for the situation amid a shortage of police and troops. Kandahar is the birthplace of the Taleban, who went on to rule Afghanistan with a harsh version of Islamic sharia law until being overthrown by a US-led invasion in 2001.

Since a US-Taleban deal in February, the insurgents have mostly refrained from carrying out major attacks on cities, but have launched near-daily assaults against Afghan forces in rural areas. Peace talks between the two sides-which started in September in the Qatari capital of Doha-are currently on a break and are due to resume on January 5. – AFP

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