KABUL: Hundreds of Afghan families have been forced to leave their villages because of fighting between the Taliban and affiliates of Daesh in eastern Nangarhar province in recent weeks, officials said on Wednesday.
The fighting concentrated in the Shinwari and Khoghani districts of the province, which borders Pakistan, and has served as a bastion for Daesh loyalists since the group emerged in Afghanistan in late 2014.
Most of the displaced, including children and the elderly, have ended up in the desert, where they face soaring heat, lack of water, shelter and food, Aryan Youn, a local delegate, told Arab News.
“These people have suffered casualties and now live in miserable conditions. It is nearly 50 degrees there. A few families have received aid from locals and traders, but the government has not provided any aid for them yet because of bureaucracy,” she said.
Fighting in Nangarhar broke out days before the holy month of Ramadan after Daesh tried to take control of Taliban territory.
Najibullah Qayoumi, head of the provincial department for refugees, said the government has provided aid to some of those displaced and confirmed that families have settled in the desert.
He told Arab News the number of displaced was over 13,000.
“The fighting erupted in one area and then spread to other parts, so like many other people we had to flee,” Tawakal Shah, a displaced resident, said.
Shah Mahmood Miakhel, governor of Nangarhar, told Arab News both Daesh and the Taliban were enemies of the government and that it has used airstrikes against both groups. He added that Daesh had filled the vacuum created after a government airstrike wiped out a number of Taliban leaders in April.
The governor’s spokesman, Attaullah Khogyani, refused to be drawn on whether Afghan forces would be deployed against the two groups. He also refused to answer questions on how the organizations had gained such a foothold in the region, after a series of prolonged operations against them by the US and Afghan soldiers. Washington famously dropped the world’s largest bomb, nicknamed the “Mother of all Bombs” (MOAB) on militants in 2017.
Daesh has frequently been met with resistance from locals, due to its extremist conduct, including forcefully marrying young girls and killing community elders in brutal ways.
Waheed Mozhdah, an analyst, said the spread of Daesh’s activities in Afghanistan had “raised lots of questions and suspicions not only among ordinary Afghans, but the Taliban too.
“One reason why the Taliban are hesitant about talks (with the US) is that they think America is bringing Daesh to Afghanistan. The Taliban have openly said that America is aiding Daesh here,” he said.
US officials have repeatedly rejected as baseless accusations raised by Iran, Russia and former Afghan President Hamid Karzai that Washington is helping Daesh in Afghanistan to destabilize the region.
Some 1.4 million Afghans have been internally displaced due to the conflict, as well as natural disasters, in the last 18 years.