Lashkar Gah, in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, is a city under siege

As the withdrawal of American troops from the country got underway, the Taliban launched an offensive on the city. Now, a motley crew of soldiers is the government’s last line of defense.

“There has been fighting day and night,” said Corporal Hamza (third photo), an Afghan border force soldier who was compelled to hold his position after the police and local militias fled. He carries ammunition for his U.S.-supplied rifle over an “I Heart Kabul” T-shirt.

This may be the closest the Taliban have ever gotten to taking Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital of Helmand Province, which is the Taliban’s heartland and a volatile swath of territory that has become synonymous with the U.S. and British military’s failures in Afghanistan over the past 20 years.

At one point after the offensive began, the Helmand River was the only barrier keeping the Taliban from overrunning government positions until American and Afghan airstrikes and Afghan troops pushed the Taliban back.

As American troops started their withdrawal, the Taliban began their latest offensive on the provincial capital on May 1, a date that tied neatly with the poor weather and blowing dust that prevented air support from stopping them. The insurgents struck elsewhere in the country at roughly the same time, taking several Afghan Army bases in the north.

A three-day cease-fire was announced by both sides beginning last Thursday to commemorate Eid al-Fitr. It was an excuse, the Afghan soldiers said, so the Taliban could move fighters and equipment back to the front lines without fear of being attacked. Tap the link in our bio to read more about the soldiers defending Lashkar Gah and the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

Source @nytimes
Photos by @jimhuylebroek

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