Afghan forces recapture Nawa district from Taliban in Helmand

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Since the launch of the operation, 12 Taliban insurgents have been killed, Zowak said.

Afghan security forces have recaptured a southern district in the restive province of Helmand from the Taliban, as part of Kabul's campaign to push the militant group from one of the key heartlands of insurgency and narcotics production.

Nawa district collapsed nine months ago to the Taliban. The Taliban did not immediately comment on reports of the district's fall. With Nawa in enemy hands, civilian aircraft were unable to land at Bost, the airfield outside of Lashkar Gah, and the security of the city, a civilian population center, was in greater jeopardy.

The Afghan army's assault on Nawa, called Operation Maiwand Four, also involved surveillance from ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicles owned by the ANA and other coalition unmanned systems, according to the release.

Aided by surveillance drones and US strike aircraft, including F-16s and AH-64 Apaches, Afghan forces captured the district center on Monday.

The offensive involved multiple air strikes and bravery from the troops on the ground, who disabled more than 100 improvised explosive devices and maneuvered under fire to retake the Nawa district center, officials said.

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Afghan security forces and volunteers visit the scene of an attack in Lashkar Gah, Helmand Province, on January 10, 2017.

Afghan police Lieutenant Colonel Mohammad Omar said the U.S. air support was an important part of the operation. "Nawa is a major north-south route for transportation, so as people travel north, they would typically travel through Nawa".

Nawa has been used as a springboard to launch attacks into Lashkar Gah, officials said. He estimated district security would require 300 police, but said that kind of manpower was not available.

Afghan security forces backed by USA air strikes have retaken a southern district from the Taliban as part of a drive to weaken the insurgents' hold on Helmand province and push them back from around its capital, Lashkar Gah, officials said on Monday. Embedding more advisers closer to the front lines has proven effective and facilitated more airpower to fledgling Afghan forces, Nicholson explained to lawmakers earlier this year.

It said 434 civilians were killed during military operations against insurgents. "Defeating the enemy in Nawa means defeating the enemy in Helmand".