Taliban claim taking third Helmand district (Nawzad)
Elsewhere in northeastern Helmand, the Nawzad district according to Taliban commander Abdul Khaliq Akhund, has been taken by Taliban militants. Khaliq told AKI correspondent Saleem Shahzad that the Taliban took the winter time cease-fire agreement with the central government to slowly move into the surrounding villages in preparation for the eventual take-over. After securing the areas around the district center Khaliq is quoted as saying, â€œLast Thursday, we just announced that we would break the ceasefire and walked in the headquarters without much of a fight.”
So far both NATO and Afghan officials have not commented on the situation in Nawzad but confirmed the deaths and fighting in Sangin on Saturday.
If Nawzad is in the hands of the Taliban, that will make three remote districts connected to one another that the Taliban hold sway over. Both Washir and Musa Qala are still said to be under the rule of the Taliban. Northern Helmandâ€™s Bagran district, which is extremely rugged and largely hostile, has never come under the rule of the Karzai administration and is serving as a Taliban sanctuary.
Neighboring Kajaki district is under heavy security by British forces who are protecting a large piece of ground surrounding the Kajaki dam, a vital reconstruction project that has recently stalled due to security issues.
Gershek, a tiny district carved out of northern Lashkar Gah district, may be the Talibanâ€™s next target according to AKIâ€™s Saleem Shahzad. Despite the recent gains by NATO and Afghan troops against the Taliban in Helmand, the southern wasteland districts such as Garmer and Dishu serve largely as open valves spewing Taliban fighters into the desert from neighboring Pakistanâ€™s Chagai Hills.
Al Jazeera recently traveled through this wasteland along with hundreds of Taliban fighters who made their way all the way up into the city center of Sangin. The video clip can be viewed by clicking here.
(Left) The heavily secured Kajaki dam area. (Right) A shot of the vital Helmand River.