Afghan commandos raided a Taliban jail in the highly contested province of Helmand and freed 58 prisoners, according to the Afghan military. The Taliban has been operating prisons in Helmand for at least three years.
The commandos freed “four soldiers, 15 Police officers, two doctors and 33 civilians” during a raid last night, according to a statement released by the Afghan Army’s 205 Corps, which operates in Helmand, Kandahar, Nimruz, Uruzgan, and Zabul. Four Taliban fighters and the “warden” of the prison were captured during the raid, TOLONews reported.
While the commando raid may be characterized as evidence of the Afghan forces’ increasing capabilities, the Taliban’s ability to run prisons in Helmand and other provinces highlights the group’s persistent presence. The Afghan military and Resolute Support began announcing raids on Taliban-run prisons in Helmand in late 2015.
On Dec. 3, 2015, a combined Afghan and US force “freed more than 40 prisoners comprised of Afghan Police, Afghan National Army and Afghan Border Police members” from a Taliban jail in the district of Now Zad, US Forces Afghanistan reported at the time. On Jan. 2, 2016, Afghanistan’s counterterrorism force freed 59 prisoners from another Taliban prison in the district of Nahr-i-Sarraj. And on Feb. 26, 2016, commandos freed 35 people, including women and children, from a jail in an area between Nad Ali and Marjah districts.
With the backing of US troops acting as advisers, Afghan forces have been unable to beat back the Taliban in Helmand despite several offensives designed to dislodge the group from key districts in the province. In fact, the security situation in Helmand has worsened and it now is the most hotly contested province in the country. Of the 14 Helmand districts, seven are controlled by the Taliban and seven more are contested, according to an ongoing assessment by FDD’s Long War Journal. In Feb. 2016, LWJ assessed five districts as Taliban controlled, and six to eight as contested.