U.S. forces are back helping Afghan troops repel Taliban insurgents from the strategic opium-growing town of Musa Qala in Helmand province, where in 2007 British and U.S. soldiers waged one of the emblematic battles of the war.
U.S. aircraft carried out three strikes over the weekend after the Taliban advanced on the town, seizing weapons and vehicles from Afghan soldiers they captured in an offensive aimed at expanding the militants’ grip on Helmand.
The Taliban have sought to secure territory in the north and south this summer but, despite some gains and a spike in attacks in the capital Kabul, they struggle to hold ground, even though most foreign coalition forces withdrew from Afghanistan in 2014.
“U.S. forces in Afghanistan said air strikes were called in against individuals”
Brian Tribus, spokesman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said air strikes were called in against “individuals threatening” both Afghan and NATO coalition troops. He did not give details. A spokesman for the Afghan army in the area said 37 militants were killed in the strikes, and another 40 wounded.
The district governor in Musa Qala called on Monday for more military support to stop the town falling back into the hands of the Taliban, who occupied it for months until a 2007 battle that involved thousands of troops.
Success in that battle was hailed by then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and was a morale boost for the fledgling Afghan army, which fought its first major battle in Musa Qala.