Afghan Forces 'Push Back Taliban' From Western City Of Farah

Afghan government forces have pushed back the Taliban from the capital of Farah Province in western Afghanistan, close to the Iranian border, officials say.

"Subdued" fighting was continuing in Farah city's outskirts, and Afghan forces were being supported with U.S. airpower and advisers, a NATO spokesman said on May 16.

The attack, the first major assault targeting a provincial capital since the militants announced their annual spring offensive, began early on May 15 when several security checkpoints in the provincial capital were overrun.

The militants also captured one urban district and parts of another.

Afghan and NATO warplanes bombed the attackers' positions, while special police forces and commandos were deployed in Farah, according to officials.

The Taliban, which announced the start of its annual spring offensive last month, claimed responsibility for the assault.

Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammad Radmanish said 11 soldiers were killed in the fighting. Radmanish and NATO had previously said that "dozens" of militants died in the fighting.

Farah provincial Governor Abdul Basir Salangi and Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish gave far higher tolls. Danish said 300 Taliban had been killed, although Salangi said the wounded had also been included in the 300 toll.

Nasir Mehri, a spokesman for Salangi, said at least five civilians had been killed.

Farah Province has been a key battleground for the Taliban for months. It borders Helmand Province, where the militants control several districts.

The Western-backed government in Kabul has been struggling to fend off the Taliban and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO troops in 2014.

But the top U.S. military commander in Europe said on May 16 that he expects 2018 to be "a second year where the Afghan forces are successful in leading that fight and decreasing the ability of Taliban to operate throughout their fighting season."

NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe Curtis Scaparrotti was speaking at a news conference following a meeting of NATO's Military Committee in Brussels.

With reporting by RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan and AFP