Afghan security personnel have abandoned nearly 200 checkpoints in turbulent Kandahar province in recent weeks, officials said on Wednesday, sometimes leaving their weapons behind to be seized by the Taliban.
Kandahar Province Governor Hayatullah Hayat and a local lawmaker separately confirmed the situation to AFP, saying the commanders would be punished for their actions.
The defense ministry in Kabul denied the information, insisting that government forces had made progress in the area.
Government forces and the Taliban have clashed regularly in Kandahar province since October despite peace talks between the warring parties.
“Afghan security forces have withdrawn from 193 checkpoints and outposts in Zharai, Maiwand, Arghandab and Panjwai districts,” Kandahar province governor Hayatullah Hayat told AFP.
“Most of the security chiefs and officers who neglected their duties have been fired and brought to justice.”
Kandahar lawmaker Hashim Alkhozai and a local police officer confirmed the details to AFP.
“The security forces came out of the bases leaving behind their weapons and ammunition,” Alkhozai said.
Most of those who left were soldiers, said Jan Mohammad, a policeman from Zharai district.
“They left without firing a bullet,” he said.
“The Taliban now have all the weapons seized from the military and are using them against us.”
Governor Hayat blamed “poor coordination” for the situation amid a shortage of police and troops.
Kandahar is the birthplace of the Taliban, who ruled Afghanistan with a harsh version of Islamic Sharia law until they were overthrown by a US-led invasion in 2001.
Since a US-Taliban deal in February, insurgents have mostly refrained from carrying out major attacks on towns, but have launched almost daily assaults against Afghan forces in rural areas.
Peace talks between the two sides – which began in September in the Qatari capital of Doha – are currently on hiatus and are expected to resume on January 5.