KABUL, Afghanistan — Taliban fighters took control of a remote district near the Pakistani border on Saturday, scattering the forces of the Afghan government, who said they had run out of ammunition.
A force of Taliban attackers entered the district of Barg-e-Matal around 8 a.m. Saturday, after the local police retreated, Colonel Sherzad, the deputy police chief, said in an interview.
“Our forces retreated because they did not have enough ammunition,” he said, echoing other officials in the area. Only 24 hours before, Afghan officials had claimed that they had driven the Taliban from the district into neighboring Pakistan.
The fall of Barg-e-Matal, while embarrassing to the Afghan government, is not necessarily strategically significant. The district sits on an isolated valley in Nuristan Province, one of the most inaccessible places in the country.
The Americans, who provided limited air support over the past few days in clashes with the Taliban, provided none on Saturday. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the American commander here, has emphasized protecting population centers, even at the expense of writing off smaller inaccessible areas.
Barg-e-Matal would seem to qualify. Last year, a group of American soldiers spent two months in the valley to help the Afghan government clear and hold the area and pulled out in September.
Last month, the Americans closed their outposts in the nearby Korengal Valley, an equally remote place, after four years of trying to pacify local Afghans. Local Taliban quickly moved in.
Afghan officials said the Taliban fighters in Barg-e-Matal were Pakistanis, other foreigners and members of Al Qaeda, although they offered no evidence to support that assertion.
Afghan officials have claimed they had killed Maulana Fazlullah, one of the leaders of the Taliban insurgency in Pakistan’s Swat Valley. That could not be confirmed, but it raised the possibility that some Pakistani Taliban had fled into Afghanistan in search of a haven.
The Pakistani Taliban have been under pressure from the Pakistani Army, which has mounted a series of offensives against them in the past year. Afghan officials said the Taliban force outnumbered their own, which they put at 450. Gen. Zaman Mamozai, the head of the Border Police in eastern Afghanistan, tried to put the best face on the flight of the police.
“We made a tactical retreat, but, God willing, we will soon take over of the district center again,” he said.
In its detail, the Taliban takeover appeared grisly. Sardar Muhammad, a member of the National Assembly from Nuristan, spoke by telephone to a member of the Afghan border police just as his post was being overrun.
“Before cutting his throat, the cruel Talib took a knife and ordered the soldier to ‘talk to your friends,’ ” Mr. Muhammad said in an interview. “The soldier was crying and yelling.”
“We heard his voice as his throat was cut,” Mr. Muhammad said, “and they killed him.”
Click to view image: '66903af206c8-_47581249_afghan_kunduz0909.gif'
|Liveleak on Facebook|