Major Taliban losses in Ghazni restore sense of normality for many residents
KABUL -- Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) with coalition support have killed and wounded hundreds of Taliban fighters in Ghazni Province over the past month, enabling district governments to regain control.
"Afghan and coalition forces jointly conducted more than 124 operations in various districts of Ghazni Province in the last month," said Mohammad Arif Noori, a spokesman for the Ghazni governor.
As a result, 468 Taliban fighters, including 18 commanders and squad leaders, were killed and wounded, he said.
In one recent operation, ANDSF thwarted a series of planned Taliban attacks in Ghazni Province and killed more than 100 of the group's fighters, Noori said.
"A few days ago, a large number of Taliban fighters had planned to launch large-scale attacks on security forces' posts in Qarabagh District, but fortunately security forces knew about the attack," he said on June 8.
"With co-operation from the [NATO] Resolute Support Mission's air support, they were able to kill 107 Taliban fighters of which 100 were members of their Red Unit," said Noori, referring to the militant group's elite special forces contingent.
"Four prominent Taliban commanders including a militant in charge of Ab Band District of Ghazni were among those killed," Noori said.
"Security forces have targeted Mullah Idris, the head of the Red Unit in Ghazni who plans and leads most of the terror attacks in the area," he said, adding that the militant leader "has sustained injuries".
"The Taliban don't have the power to fight face-to-face with security forces," Noori said.
Restart of local government
The successful clearance efforts against the insurgents in Ghazni Province has enabled some local districts such as Deh Yak and Khwaja Omari to restart government functions and initiate new development programmes to help restore normalcy for residents in the area.
Afghan special forces on May 27 retook Deh Yak District, which had been under Taliban control for two years. They also regained control of Khwaja Omari District, which had been under the militant's influence for about a year, on June 6.
"Life in Deh Yak and Khwaja Omari districts, which were recaptured from the Taliban, has returned back to normal," Noori said. "The districts' authorities have arrived in the district centres and government activities have begun."
"Budgets of development programmes for the two districts have been allocated and practical work of these programmes will begin in the following days," he said.
Ministry of Defence spokesman Mohammad Zubair Arif praised the special forces for ousting the Taliban from the districts and eliminating many of their top leaders.
"New leadership at the Defence Ministry promised the public that we would take offensive positions," he said. "[As a result] we killed hundreds of Taliban fighters including their key commanders."
"In two weeks, we freed the districts of Deh Yak and Khwaja Omari from the control of the Taliban," Arif said.
"We warn the Taliban that as time passes, we will retake [and not leave] even a foot of the territory of Afghanistan under their control and we will destroy all of them," he said.
Targeting the Taliban's Red Unit
"We killed more than 200 members of the Taliban's elite Red Unit in Ghazni and Maidan Wardak provinces in the last 10 days and we will kill any Taliban members who fight against the security forces," Arif said June 8.
With the launch of their "Al-Fatah" spring offensive, the Taliban planned to create insecurity in various provinces, but security forces operations thwarted their operations, according to Arif.
"Taliban members who survived the operations fled and are taking refuge in civilians' houses, neighbouring provinces and in the border areas," he said.
The recent successes in dislodging the Taliban indicate that more areas may soon be recaptured from the militants, said Aziz Stanikzai, a Kabul-based military affairs analyst.
"During the last two months, we witnessed successful operations by security forces on the battlefield and the retaking of the districts of Khwaja Omari and Deh Yak," he said.
"Promises made by the leadership of security forces in regards to defeating the Taliban are turning into reality with each passing day as security forces are recapturing lost areas," Stanikzai said.
"If military operations continue with this offensive position and a firm resolve for defeating the Taliban exists, security forces will recapture all the areas that remain under the control of the Taliban," he said.
Residents celebrate liberation
Residents in the liberated districts say they are happy to be freed from the harsh conditions imposed by the Taliban.
"In the last year while our district was in the hands of the Taliban, they committed any kind of cruelty they could," said Naweeda Bayat, a civil society activist and resident of Khwaja Omari District.
"They were profiting from the residents of Khwaja Omari, harassing the young boys, taking ushr and zakat on agricultural land and herds of rams," she said.
"They were harassing youth for not keeping beards and hair as per the orders of the Taliban," Bayat said. "They closed girls' schools and they forced residents to give them warm water so that they could take showers."
"I am very happy that the heroic Afghan forces recaptured our district and I congratulate them on this big achievement for the residents of Khwaja Omari," Bayat said.
Ahmad, who worked at the Khwaja Omari District Education Department while the Taliban controlled the area, said under a pseudonym that residents finally are able to return to a normal life after suffering under the insurgents.
"About a year ago as our district fell into the hands of the Taliban, they killed the district governor of Khwaja Omari and a number of others, and a number of families left their homes because of their fear of the Taliban," he said.
"The Taliban fighters took money from civilians," Ahmad said. "They went to their houses every day and forced them to give them food. Residents lost their freedom. The Taliban had the first and last word."
"The Taliban closed girls' schools during their control and they applied their own curriculum at boys' schools," he said. "They didn't let men shave their beards, and in general they imposed limits over others' lives."
"We thank the security forces for they freed our district from the control of the Taliban and now we can freely and comfortably work and continue our activities," Ahmad said. "I want the government to provide security all over our region, open schools for girls and implement development programmes."