Afghanistan has deployed more troops to a restive western province where a multi-billion-dollar pipeline is planned after the Taliban launched multiple attacks against security forces, causing heavy casualties, officials said yesterday.
The latest assault in Farah, which borders Iran, happened yesterday morning when Taliban militants stormed a checkpoint manned by police and intelligence officers on the outskirts of the provincial capital of the same name, killing seven security forces. It came as the Taliban face growing pressure to take up Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's offer of peace talks to end the 16-year insurgency, but so far the group has given only a muted response.
"When commando forces were deployed they [the militants] retreated," Jamila Amini, a member of the Farah provincial council, told AFP.
Four members of the National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan's spy agency, and three police were killed, she added. The incident and death toll were confirmed by fellow provincial council member Gul Ahmad Faqiri.
"We have sent more troops and commando forces to Farah to contain the situation," defense ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri told AFP, adding the army chief of staff had also visited the province. "The situation will soon come under control," he said.
Taliban fighters on Monday briefly took control of the administrative building of Farah's Anar Dara district, killing eight police, before they were beaten back by security forces, officials said. That came after an attack on soldiers in Bala Buluk district over the weekend that resulted in multiple casualties.
A February 24 raid on an army base in the same district killed at least 18 soldiers, officials said, in one of the deadliest attacks on security forces in recent months.
Farah is a poppy-growing province in a hard to reach part of Afghanistan which a section of the multi-billion-dollar TAPI gas pipeline will traverse.
The conduit is named for the four countries involved: Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Despite security concerns, the Taliban have pledged to cooperate with the project.
Farah has been the scene of intense fighting in recent years. In 2017 insurgents tried to overrun the capital three times, according to the Afghanistan Analysts Network.
"The security situation has been deteriorating day by day in Farah," Faqiri confirmed, estimating around a dozen security forces are killed in the province every day.
Former Farah governor Mohammad Aref Shah Jahan resigned in January after days of protests in the provincial capital over rising insecurity.