Dozens of Afghan security forces have surrendered to the Taliban during intensified fighting by the militants for control of Afghanistan’s western province of Badghis, which borders Turkmenistan.
Badghis provincial council chairman Abdul Aziz Bik said on Sunday that about 50 Afghan personnel who were part of the Afghan Interior Ministry’s border police had laid down their arms in the province’s most populous district of Bala Murghab.
He explained that some 100 Afghan personnel had attempted to flee their posts into neighboring Turkmenistan on Saturday but had been prevented from entering that country. Fifty of them then abandoned fighting in the troubled district and surrendered to Taliban militants in the area.
Bik expressed fear for the forces’ lives. “These soldiers have been fighting against the Taliban for years and if they give up, they will be killed by [the] Taliban.”
Meanwhile, the Taliban claimed that 90 Afghan personnel had surrendered during the fierce clashes. It posted photos on Twitter of a line-up of dozens of men, who the militant group said were captured by border police forces.
Separately, the International Committee of the Red Cross said in a Twitter post that attacks in Bala Murghab had resulted in heavy casualties. The Red Cross said it had facilitated the handover of the bodies of 20 soldiers to the Afghan National Army Corps.
In a tweet, the Afghan Defense Ministry said its forces had killed a dozen militants in Bala Murghab during the previous 24 hours.
On Saturday, Badghis provincial council member Abdullah Afzali said that the district was at risk of falling to the Taliban unless Afghan forces received aerial and ground reinforcements.
Afghanistan usually sees a marked increase in violence in spring. Fighting in Afghanistan has intensified even as Taliban and US representatives finished a latest round of talks in the Qatari capital of Doha on Tuesday.
The Taliban’s five-year rule over at least three quarters of Afghanistan came to an end following a US invasion in 2001; but 18 years on, Washington is still entangled in the war and is now seeking a truce with the militants.
The militant group continues to attack government and civilian targets as well as foreign forces still present on Afghan soil.