Thousands displaced due to clashes in eastern Afghanistan

Thousands displaced due to clashes in eastern Afghanistan
In this Saturday, Jan. 28, 2012 file photo, U.S. soldiers, part of the NATO- led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) walk west of Kabul, Afghanistan. (AP)
Updated 08 April 2019

Thousands displaced due to clashes in eastern Afghanistan

Thousands displaced due to clashes in eastern Afghanistan
  • It began on a sunny day three weeks ago, when affiliates of Daesh began to attack Taliban strongholds

KABUL: When the first hail of bullets landed around Hakimullah, he assumed it must have been just another person from his village who had missed the target while indulging in routine gunfire to celebrate the birth of a son or a wedding taking place.
Soon, it turned into a sustained gunbattle, punctuated by the exchange of semi-heavy fire, in the Chapa Dara area of the Kunar district in eastern Afghanistan.
It began on a sunny day three weeks ago, when affiliates of Daesh began to attack Taliban strongholds.
Hakimullah, who worked as a day laborer in his village, rushed home to his family. As the clashes became intense, he was forced to flee with his extended family of 12 — which included his ailing parents — when he realized that this was the start of a turf war between supporters of the two groups.
“We walked for hours before being able to find a truck. We were utterly exhausted and had left everything behind, with only one pair of clothes,” a distraught Hakimullah told Arab News by phone from the adjacent Nangarhar province where he, like several other families displaced by the conflict, has resettled.
“Apart from my family, there are 27 other people from two other families who live with me in a relative’s house. It is tough for us and the host family, but we have no alternative,” he added.
He does not know when they will be able return to his village, where Daesh has managed to establish control.
“My kids are ill, my parents are very frail. We need everything. We are trying to kill time. We do not know how long we can carry on. There are 25 of us, children and men, crammed in one room where we can barely sleep due to a lack of space,” he added.
According to the United Nations (UN) and local officials in Kunar, thousands of families have been forced to abandon their homes.
The major reason for the displacement of civilians (Internally Displaced People, or IDPs) in Kunar is the fighting between Daesh and the Taliban in the province which borders Pakistan. Chapa Dara serves as a corridor for adjacent Nuristan where Daesh has managed to establish its influence in recent months.
“IDPs had mostly fled on foot and were generally lacking clothing, bedding, and hygiene and cooking materials. Assessments have reported that many infants and mothers were visibly weak and in poor health, raising concerns about access to food and nutrition supplies,” the UN said in a statement released on Thursday.
At several locations, shelter toilets and bathing facilities are few and far between, leading to concerns that the number of IDPs are adding to the pressure on host communities.
While the Taliban and government-controlled areas are currently accessible to humanitarian partners, there has been no access to Daesh-controlled areas, the UN said.
Shahzada Shahid, a lawmaker from Kunar, told Arab News that both the Taliban and Daesh have assembled thousands of fighters for the battle, a major push by Daesh since its military setbacks last year in Nangarhar, which served for years as its stronghold.
“The fighting in Kunar and who controls key parts of it has become a war of prestige for the warring sides because it is an important area,” said Waheed Mozhdah, an analyst.
The US backed-Afghan government has not taken sides in the fighting between the two groups, both of which are hoping to topple it, Hajji Sakhi, a tribal chief from Kunar, said.
“Taliban and Daesh were the government’s enemies and to have them fight each other suited the government. The Taliban are keen to take back the area from Daesh. For now, the fighting has subsided, but it can breakout again,” Sakhi told Arab News by phone.
Both the Taliban and Daesh have suffered casualties in the clashes, lawmakers said.
At least four civilians lost their lives in the initial days of the clashes, accord to Sharafatullah, a , a 25-year-old peasant who fled to Asadabad, the provincial capital of Kunar.
Sharafatullah recalled the day when the fighting erupted.
“Bullets came from all sides. We decided to flee, some even came out with barefoot and walked for several kilometers. It was a very tough time,” he told Arab News by phone.
“There are no facilities here. I have 14 people in my family and live in a relative’s house, but since they, too, are poor and have few rooms in their house, they can not keep us for an indefinite period either,” he said.
The only time he said he had received aid from the government was several days back. It included several blankets and two sacks of flour.
“I do not know what has happened to my herds (back at the village) and do not know what will be our fate here,” he said.