July 5 (UPI) — More than 1,000 Afghan soldiers fled into the neighboring country of Tajikistan on Monday after clashes with the Taliban, border officials said.
Reports from state media citing a statement from Tajikistan’s border authority Monday said that 1,037 Afghan servicemen fled Afghanistan‘s Badakhshan province and crossed the border to “save the lives of their personnel.”
Tajik President Emomali Rahmon later mobilized 20,000 reserve troops to the border, while authorities said they would not interfere with internal Afghan matters.
Monday’s retreat was the fifth time soldiers have fled to Tajikistan in the past two weeks and a total of nearly 1,600 have crossed the border, the BBC reported.
Indrika Ratwatte, Asia-Pacific bureau director for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees added that as many as 200,000 Afghans have been internally displaced this year.
The exodus comes as U.S. Central Command said last week that the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan following a deal with the Taliban was nearly 50% complete.
Fawad Aman, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s Defense Ministry, said on Twitter that “vast areas” of the Badakhshan province were cleared of Taliban fighters.
However, Ahmad Javed, a member of Badakshan’s provincial council, told The Washington Post that all but one of its 28 districts had fallen into Taliban control and Faizabad, the provincial capital, was surrounded by the Taliban.
Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told the BBC many of the districts had fallen to the Taliban through mediation after Afghan soldiers refused to fight, denying that the group was responsible for an increase in violence.