LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan - Afghan forces have pulled out of bases in Musa Qala, a strategic district of the southern province of Helmand, after months of heavy fighting with Taliban insurgents, officials said on Saturday.
Helmand, a traditional heartland of the Taliban and one of the world's biggest centers of opium production, has been threatened for months and the United States recently sent hundreds of soldiers to the province to bolster its defense.
The commander of the Afghan army's 215th corps, Mohammad Moeen Faqir, said troops had been ordered to pull back from Roshan Tower, their main base in Musa Qala, as well as other checkpoints to reinforce Gereshk, straddling the main Highway One which links Kabul with the south and west.
"Their presence in the area did not mean anything," he said. "We will use them in battle with enemies in other parts of Helmand province."
Fierce fighting has raged in Musa Qala and other parts of Helmand for months and the Taliban overran the district in August last year before they were driven back by Afghan forces backed by U.S. airstrikes.