Taliban enter Helmand capital, clash with Afghan forces

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200 Afghan interpreters
fleeing Taliban arrive in US

Kabul/Washington

Afghan security forces and Taliban fighters have been locked in heavy clashes for the last two days after the insurgents entered the capital of the southern province of Helmand, officials said on Friday, as civilians rushed to evacuate the city.

With US-led foreign forces nearing a complete withdrawal of troops, the Taliban have made swift territorial gains over the last two months but have not yet captured any provincial capitals.

“Since Thursday morning the Taliban have launched attacks from several directions on Lashkargah city,” a government official told Reuters. Lashkargah is the capital of Helmand, a southern province that borders Pakistan.

“Hundreds of families have left the area and moved to other safer places,” Hafiz Ahmad, a resident of one Lashkargah neighbourhood where clashes are ongoing, told Reuters.

Meanwhile, the first flight carrying Afghans who worked as interpreters for American troops and diplomats has arrived in the US, President Joe Biden said Friday, the start of an operation to evacuate thousands from possible Taliban retaliation.

Around 20,000 Afghans worked for the United States following the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and have applied for evacuation under the State Department’s Special Immigrant Visas program.

“Today is an important milestone as we continue to fulfill our promise to the thousands of Afghan nationals who served shoulder-to-shoulder with American troops and diplomats over the last 20 years in Afghanistan,” Biden said in a statement released by the White House.—Reuters/AFP

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