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The Taliban control places like Helmand, where the US and UK troops fought their hardest battles, pushing the drive toward peace and progress into reverse.
Thu 3 Aug Her name was Salima, but it was never uttered at her funeral. As is custom in rural Afghanistan , no women attended the ceremony, and of the dozens of men gathered to pay their respects, few had known the deceased. Salima, like almost all women in Helmand province, had spent most of her life after puberty cloistered in her family home. Her family said she accidentally shot herself in the face when she came across a Kalashnikov hidden under some blankets while cleaning.
Salima died 10 days before an arranged marriage, but nobody asked any questions: Her body was lowered into the hole, wrapped in a thin, black shroud. She had lived unseen, and was buried by strangers. Yet in Helmand, adult women are almost entirely invisible, even in the city. They are the property of their family, and few are able to work or seek higher education, independent medical care or justice.
Meanwhile, the Trump administration has yet to define a strategy for Afghanistan. The US was expected to have approved the deployment of about 4, additional troops to Afghanistan by now — the first surge since the withdrawal began in Yet the administration is torn. In Helmand, which is markedly worse off than when foreign combat troops left three years ago, Afghan forces on the frontline are desperate for support.
But critics say that more military power only risks fomenting insurgency. And nowhere is this more evident than in Helmand. Places where British and American troops fought their hardest battles are now firmly under Taliban control. Babaji, the scene of one of biggest British air assaults in modern times, fell to the Taliban shortly after the Guardian visited last year. Marjah — where in thousands of US, British and Afghan troops launched the largest joint offensive in the war — is firmly in the control of the insurgents.