The area had been densely mined by the Taliban, and weeks of clashes left the streets shredded: dirt roads littered with craters and mud-straw walls pockmarked with bullets and shrapnel.
For months, the Taliban slowly expanded its influence across Afghanistan after signing the withdrawal deal with the United States. The halt in offensive U.S. operations, especially airstrikes and raids, allowed the group to mass fighters, gather supplies, and chip away at government-held territory.
The country’s south, specifically Helmand, witnessed some of the militants’ most striking advances.By May 1, the date marking the start of the complete withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan, the Taliban had massed hundreds of fighters in Helmand. And as the U.S. military handed over its last base here to the Afghan government, Taliban fighters launched a massive assault the same day on the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah, overrunning territory in three districts including Nawa.
While Nawa had fallen to the Taliban several times over the past two decades, residents say the current battle to retake the area is unlike the others before: It has dragged on for weeks rather than days, and both sides are using heavier weaponry.
Sadat described one of the most successful raids, which surrounded and killed a unit of about 50 Taliban fighters. “They were eager to collect the dead, so we kept watching on the area,” he said, recounting that his forces shot several more of the militants as they tried to retrieve bodies.
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