Taliban force healthcare shutdown in Afghan province where Australians fought and died

URUZGAN- DAILY LIFE
Midwife of 2 years and now teacher Rugol Faqari  (left) instructs the first group of female midwifery students at The Midwifery School in Tarin Kowt. The students are 6months into their 2 year course that is funded and established by the Australian branch of NGO Save The Children. On completing their courses they will return to their villages.Tarin Kowt, Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan. 30th January, 2013. Photo: Kate Geraghty
URUZGAN- DAILY LIFE Midwife of 2 years and now teacher Rugol Faqari (left) instructs the first group of female midwifery students at The Midwifery School in Tarin Kowt. The students are 6months into their 2 year course that is funded and established by the Australian branch of NGO Save The Children. On completing their courses they will return to their villages.Tarin Kowt, Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan. 30th January, 2013. Photo: Kate Geraghty

The Taliban in the Afghanistan province where Australians fought and died have forced the shutdown of dozens of health clinics as part of a push to have doctors treat their wounded fighters in further signs the country is sliding back into chaos.

The new tactic by the insurgents, who control large swathes of the province of Oruzgan, amounts to an effort to set up their own parallel administration and services, including demanding their own dedicated healthcare.

It represents the steady deterioration that much of Afghanistan - and particularly the south where Oruzgan lies - has experienced since the bulk of Western forces withdrew at the end of 2013, including most Australians.

Multiple sources in the provincial capital of Tarin Kot, where Australians were based for seven years, have told Fairfax Media that representatives of the provincial government are in discussions with the Taliban but in the meantime, healthcare for ordinary Afghans is being crippled.

"All the clinics in the area are closed," said Aminullah Tokhe the director of Tarin Kot provincial hospital. "The Taliban want surgical doctors from the government. The discussion is going on but still now we [haven't] reached the final decision."

Reuters quoted Dost Mohammad Nayab, a spokesman for Oruzgan's governor, as saying that the Taliban had forced the closure of 46 out of 49 of the province's health clinics. Mr Nayab said authorities were talking to elders in the province, asking them to intervene and have the Taliban let the clinics reopen.

Locals say the insurgents control most of the province outside Tarin Kot and frequently contest territory just outside the capital.

Most of the 41 Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan died in Oruzgan province.

One man, an engineer aged in his late 20s who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals, said his brother was hit in the arm by a stray bullet during a shootout in Tarin Kot between insurgents and police on Saturday.

The man said his brother had to be sent to Mirwais Hospital in Kandahar 160 kilometres away with a broken arm because he couldn't get treated at the city hospital.

The man said he had spoken to a Tarin Kot hospital worker who had told him: "[The Taliban] said, 'If you don't obey us, we have a complete list of your doctors and staff, so we will shoot and kill every one.'"

The man added: "The Taliban want Oruzgan health department to establish new health centres in areas where the Taliban has control and will take care of their fighters. So this was the main reason that they closed the hospitals."

Underscoring the fact the Taliban is trying to become the de facto government, a spokesman for the insurgents told Reuters that they had closed the clinics because they were providing a poor service and "if the local administration do not provide basics, we will".

The Tarin Kot engineer also criticised local authorities however. He said police had killed an insurgent in a shootout on Sunday and had then stripped his body naked and driven it around the city showing residents.

"This is not humane. It is against our culture and has a bad effect on people's minds."

The man sent a picture purporting to be of the Taliban fighter's body, though it could not be confirmed.

Another local independently told Fairfax Media he had not seen this incident but had heard about it second-hand.

This story Taliban force healthcare shutdown in Afghan province where Australians fought and died first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.