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Newspapers are reporting heavy fighting in Helmand province. It is a fight between the Taliban and Afghan government forces, newspapers say.

Afghan officials say more than 800 Taliban fighters have launched an offensive in Helmand Province aimed at retaking territory that was recently transferred to the control of Afghan government forces by departing U.S. troops.

Provincial governor spokesman Omar Zwak says at least 100 militants, 21 Afghan soldiers, and 40 civilians have been killed in five days of fighting.

The casualty toll could not immediately be confirmed.

Taliban Launches Helmand Offensive; More Than 160 Killed, Radio Free Europe

The fighting comes after the drawdown of U.S. and British troops from Helmand.
Well, that didn’t take long.

The last U.S. Marines pulled out of Afghanistan’s notoriously violent Sangin district last month, turning the security mission over to Afghan forces as part of the ongoing transition that requires all U.S. combat troops to be out of the country by year’s end. The question hanging over the Americans and the Afghans at the time: Would the Taliban or other insurgent groups in Sangin launch an assault to test the Afghan government, and when?

Notorious Afghan district under siege, weeks after last Marines leave, Washington Post

Mohammad Zaher Azimi, spokesman for the defence ministry, said the Taliban were exploiting the security forces’ reduced firepower. “The main reason (for the attack) is that now we don’t have the aerial coverage that NATO would provide in the past,” Azimi told Tolo TV news.

“This has given the Taliban the chance to freely move in some areas and mobilise for big offensives... but even without the help of NATO, the security forces have beaten back this attack.” The last US troops pulled out of Sangin only last month, handing over their remaining bases to Afghan soldiers and police who have now taken on full responsibility for fighting the militants.

Afghan forces, Taliban in full-scale battle for southern district , Reuters/AFP

Large numbers of civilians have been displaced by the fighting.
Some of those civilians who fled the fighting walked long distances to the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah.

Displaced people are reported to be sleeping in the open, amidst reports of a shortage of food and water in the city.

A tribal elder in Sangin told the BBC's Mamoon Durrani in Kandahar that locals faced fuel shortages and that prices had risen tenfold.

Afghan troops battle mass Taliban assault in Helmand, BBC

The United Nations mission has released a statement about civilian casualties.
Deeply concerned by the rising number of civilian casualties in ongoing military operations in the southern Afghan province of Helmand, the head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in the country (UNAMA) today urged all parties to take precautions to ensure civilian protection.

Since 21 June, ongoing clashes between the Taliban and Afghanistan National Security Forces have resulted in deaths and injuries in the province’s Sangin, Musa Qala, Naw Zad and Kajaki districts – with the majority of fighting concentrated in Sangin, said UNAMA in a press release.

“The high number of civilians killed and injured in these ongoing military operations is deeply concerning,” said the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of UNAMA, Ján Kubiš.

The UN Mission has documented at least 30 civilian deaths and 35 injuries in Sangin alone, in addition to civilian casualties in other districts of Helmand province.

Amid clashes between Afghan forces, Taliban, UN mission urges civilian protection in Helmand province, United Nations News Centre

At about the time the fighting started, three United States Marines were killed by an IED.
Three Camp Lejeune Marines were killed in action last week during combat operations in Afghanistan.

Staff Sgt. David H. Stewart, 34, of Stafford, Virginia; Lance Cpl. Brandon J. Garabrant, 19, of Peterborough, New Hampshire; and Lance Cpl. Adam R. Wolff, 25, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, died June 20 during combat operations in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. All three were with 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion of Camp Lejeune, and were killed in Helmand Province, Afghanistan as a result of a hostile incident, according to a 2nd Marine Division press release.

Families remember fallen Marines, Jacksonville Daily News

On Wednesday, another Marine was killed in combat in Helmand.
A Marine stationed at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms was killed Wednesday while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan the Department of Defense announced Thursday.

Sgt. Thomas Z. Spitzer, 23, of New Braunfels, Texas —who was killed while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom — was assigned to 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Twentynine Palms.

Twentynine Palms Marine killed in Afghanistan, DOD says, Desert Sun

In 1840, during the first Anglo-Afghan war, the British stirred up a rebellion in Helmand.

It is not known whether the British were aware of the ramifications of the decisions made by their partner Shah Suja, but it is clear that they did not understand the causes of the ensuing rebellion, reflecting a lack of knowledge of the local dynamics.

A Brief History of Helmand, Mike Martin

In 1880, during the second Anglo-Afghan war, the British stirred up a rebellion in Helmand.
The British had failed to understand that dynamic and left, handing a fractured Afghanistan and a subsidy to the Barakzai Abdur Rahman, who at that point only controlled Kabul.

A Brief History of Helmand, Mike Martin.

And in 2006, the British and the Americans stirred up a rebellion in Helmand.
The British deployed into Helmand unaware that the insurgency was gathering pace and blindly ignorant of the local politics underpinning it.

The Taliban at war: inside the Helmand insurgency, 2004–2012, Theo Farrell and Antonio Giustozzi

Something about the current fighting, being described as between the Taliban and Afghan government forces.

I don't think it's sufficient, even at a newspaper level, for describing what is going on. The current fighting there has deep historical roots.

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