Two military choppers carrying wounded Afghan soldiers amid the renewed series of clashes between the Taliban and the government forces collided in southern Helmand on Tuesday, killing the nine souls on board, the country’s Defense Ministry and local officials confirmed on Wednesday.
According to details, the two Soviet-era Mi-17 military helicopters had deployed commandos to reinforce the Afghan forces and were evacuating wounded soldiers on their return flight when they collided in the Nawa district of southern Helmand while taking off, reportedly due to some technical issues.
The region has been mired in fierce, violent clashes between Afghan forces and the Taliban insurgents. The insurgents have reportedly taken control of one district already and are fighting their way to the outskirts Lashkar Gah. According to some estimates, the Taliban already control almost 80% of Helmand. The government forces, reportedly supported by US airstrikes, have been attempting to repel the Taliban, resulting in violent clashes.
Attacks in several other areas of the country have killed at least 6 Afghan security forces and eight civilians.
The United Nations estimates that at least 35,000 people have been compelled to flee their homes in the wake of the clashes. Large parts of Helmand and the neighbouring Kandahar remain without electricity as the Taliban attacked and largely destroyed a power grid on Monday. Telecommunication networks have also been shut down. Roughly 5000 families have been displaced from their home – a majority of these have reportedly sought refuge in the neighbouring areas.
Experts argue that these clashes are the most serious and specifically coordinated attacks by the Taliban since the beginning of the peace talks with the United States in Qatar earlier this year. The relevant parties are yet to finalize a set of rules to govern the talks, and the negotiations are yet to discuss the possible power-sharing arrangement and the border issues of a ceasefire.
The insurgents argue that they are only regaining the areas they once controlled. But correspondents say that the Taliban actions on the battlefield raise questions on their commitment to the peace negotiations with the United States. Earlier this week, US General Scott Miller, the head of the Nato forces in Afghanistan, blamed the Taliban for ‘undermining’ the peace talks and contravening the agreement they signed with the US earlier this year.