Wounded US soldiers evacuated from Afghanistan

Body of third American also taken out after heavy fighting with the Taliban in Helmand’s Marjah district.

Afghan forces continue to battle for Sangin amid airstrikes
Afghan forces continue to battle the Taliban in restive Helmand province [Watan Yar/EPA]

Two wounded US soldiers and the body of a third were evacuated from a battlefield in southern Afghanistan on Wednesday during a joint US-Afghan operation, the US military said. 

A team of American special operations troops – advising their Afghan counterparts – became pinned down by the Taliban during heavy fighting on Tuesday near the city of Marjah in Helmand province.

The evacuation was delayed when a helicopter took fire and was unable to land, and another was unable to take off.

“All three casualties have been evacuated successfully from the area,” US Army Colonel Michael Lawhorn said.

Read more: Analysis: The Taliban’s resurgence in Afghanistan

Omar Zawaq, Helmand governor’s spokesman, told Al Jazeera the main Marjah highway had been retaken after the Taliban sealed it off a day earlier during the siege.

“Most of the areas that were under Taliban control are now cleared and supply routes have now been reopened too,” he said.

 Taliban seizes southern district

“The Taliban suffered heavy losses in the clashes. However, it is an ongoing battle and has not completely ended. Some areas are still under the Taliban,” Zawaq said.

The Taliban recently attacked a number of cities in Helmand, one of several fronts where its fighters have advanced in the past year.

Marjah is one of the main supply routes for Sangin district to the north of Helmand – and has been the scene of heavy fighting between Afghan forces and the Taliban in the last few weeks.

Meanwhile, Mohammad Jan Rasoolyar, deputy governor of Helmand, has been fired at the request of the Afghan National Security Council (ANSC) over a Facebook post he wrote in December, in which he pleaded with the central government to send reinforcements, local authorities said.  

Read more: Residents stranded as battle for Helmand intensifies

Rasoolyar used his Facebook account to make an emotional plea to President Ashraf Ghani for help as government forces were outnumbered and surrounded by the Taliban in Sangin.

He warned the president the entire province was in danger of falling.

ANSC said local officials must be “reminded that using social media to voice their dissatisfaction against government decisions and policies will never be tolerated”. 

Rasoolyar defended his actions when contacted by Al Jazeera for comment.

“I voiced my concern over Facebook after I requested for support several times earlier,” he said. 

“If they hired me, they can fire me too. They have the authority. I am just worried about the situation in Helmand as everything is getting out of control.”

 Taliban gain ground in fight for Afghanistan’s Helmand

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies


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