KABUL, Afghanistan, July 19, 2006 – Afghan and coalition forces reasserted authority in two villages reported to be under Taliban control in the Helmand province of southern Afghanistan, military officials reported. The combined forces moved into the village of Narwa in the Nawa Barakzayee district yesterday, meeting no resistance and finding no Taliban extremists. There were no indications of damage or violence as the village was secured.
Although media sources had reported the Taliban was in control of Narwa, village elders said a group of Taliban had been in the village, but had since left the area well before Afghan and coalition forces arrived. The extremists had damaged the police station and a school, and many school books were destroyed. The fleeing Taliban left two caches of mines and rocket-propelled grenades behind. A separate task force of Afghan and coalition forces occupied the district center of Garmser early this morning. The combined task force defeated enemy resistance overnight outside of Garmser, and waited to occupy after first light to prevent confusion within the village that might jeopardize the safety of civilians.
At dawn, the task force entered Garmser unopposed. No damage to the district center was noted. A weapons cache and two improvised explosive devices were also discovered in Garmser and will be disposed of, officials said. The Afghan national flag is flying over both district centers, and soldiers from the 205th Afghan National Army Corps will arrive later today to support the districts' Afghan National Police there.
"Afghan and coalition forces are committed to the security of the people of Afghanistan," said Army Maj. Gen. Benjamin C. Freakley, commander of Combined Joint Task Force 76. "In these instances, the Taliban force their way into villages and towns with limited Afghan security forces and claim control. They intimidate the people, take their possessions and often kill innocent teachers and district leaders.
"They always withdraw the moment the Afghan government and coalition forces respond," the general continued. "They demonstrate no capability to control anything, and merely threaten and intimidate innocent Afghan civilians, then run away. Today, the bazaar is open in Nawra, and the village has returned to normal."
Afghan and coalition forces continue to attack extremists and force them out of their safe havens, officials said. As part of Operation Mountain Thrust, coalition and Afghan forces are advancing security operations to expand the capacity of the Afghan government, and allow continued delivery of reconstruction, economic development and humanitarian aid.