Afghan security forces fought back a huge Taliban offensive in southern Helmand province in the last 24 hours, officials and residents said on Tuesday, as militants launched assaults around the country following a missed U.S. deadline to withdraw troops.
Although the United States did not meet the May 1 withdrawal deadline agreed in talks with the Taliban last year, its pull-out has begun, with President Joe Biden announcing all troops will out by Sept. 11. Critics of the decision to withdraw say the militants will try to sweep back into power.
“There was a thunderstorm of heavy weapons and blasts in the city and the sound of small arms was like someone was making popcorn,” Mulah Jan, a resident of a suburb of provincial capital Lashkar Gah, told Reuters.
“I took all my family members to the corner of the room, hearing the heavy blasts and bursts of gunfire as if it was happening behind our walls,” he said. Families that could afford to leave had fled, but he had been unable to go, waiting with his family in fear before the Taliban were pushed back.