Lashkar Gah: How the Afghan city Britain helped secure fell to the Taliban
Written by Hit Music Radio News on 13/08/2021
Fifteen years of security that Britain helped to build in Lashkar Gah has gone in just 13 days.
The city that was the centre of the British campaign in Afghanistan is now under Taliban control.
Since 2002, 248 British soldiers have died trying to secure the wider region of Helmand, more than half of all British personnel to die in the war.
Sky News has analysed the key locations in the group’s recent advance to show how Lashkar Gah fell.
Key locations in the conflict were Lashkar Gah airport, Peace Square, Bost University, the Police Headquarters, Emergency hospital, the Helmand Intelligence Department, and the Helmand Governor’s Office.
The Taliban enter Lashkar Gah, arriving from the direction of the airport.
24 hours later District 1 is said to be under Taliban control and the district commander has surrendered.
The Helmand Central Intelligence Department is then the only place in the area held by government forces.
The next morning the Taliban say they have captured Lashkar Gah’s 7th District close to where UK forces were previously stationed.
The Taliban flag is seen flying in Peace Square, one of the city’s main junctions.
They also take tv and radio stations, broadcasting from one radio studio.
Taliban media proclaim:
After a 20-year delay, the Voice of Sharia has resumed broadcasting in Lashkar Gah.
The building highlighted is Bost University, where the Taliban take up position.
This is one university building which the Taliban say was being targeted by US airstrikes.
The Police Headquarters, in the centre of this picture, come under siege from Taliban forces in buildings highlighted to the north-east.
The battle continues in the 2nd District in the city centre. Government forces take back control of the university before the Taliban counter-attack.
6 – 10 AUGUST
A hospital in the city tweets its coordinates, hoping to avoid damage from shelling. Another clinic, shown below, is hit by an airstrike.
6 – 10 AUGUST
Fighting continues for several days in the streets as Afghan Special Forces try to push the Taliban out with the help of air support.
The Afghan Ministry of Defence says several Taliban commanders have been killed.
The Police Headquarters, still under siege, becomes the epicentre of the battle.
A car bomb is set off at the police compound, injuring 15 Afghan police officers. The buildings finally fall to the Taliban.
The Helmand Governor’s Office, seen below, is one of the last parts of the city not under Taliban control.
The Governor reportedly negotiates a surrender and social media posts show the Taliban flag raised above the city.
The city and province that British troops spent almost a decade protecting has fallen.
The Taliban captured Lashkar Gah in less than a fortnight after fighting reached the city’s perimeter.
This latest phase intensified on the outskirts of Helmand’s capital city almost immediately after the US started withdrawing its troops from the region at the beginning of May.
The city had become a place of refuge for people fleeing the recent fighting in the province.
By 3 August, the conflict had become so fierce in Lashkar Gah that Afghan forces told all remaining civilians to leave.
Analysis by Alistair Bunkall, Middle East Correspondent
Lashkar Gah has a totemic value to the British Armed Forces because it was the location of their headquarters for operations in Helmand between 2006 and 2014.
A reasonably small city of about 200,000 people, it is the capital of the province and sits strategically on the Helmand River and key trading routes through the country.
For soldiers deployed in Afghanistan, time at Lashkar Gah was so much more comfortable than Camp Bastion or one of the forward operating bases that it became known affectionately by troops as “Lash Vegas”.
Although the fall of Lashkar Gah will have huge symbolic resonance to anyone who served in Afghanistan, it’s not as significant a loss as the larger cities of Herat or Kandahar.
Lashkar Gah is one of three major provincial capitals that fell to the Taliban on the same day.
The insurgent group now controls half of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals and two-thirds of the country.
As its advance accelerates, US intelligence officials have suggested the Afghan capital Kabul could fall within 30 days.
Reporting: Kieran Devine, Jack Taylor, Victoria Elms
Reporting, maps and digital production: Carmen Aguilar García, Ganesh Rao
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