Brazen Taliban attack raises pressure on Afghan forces

Frederick Owens
August 12, 2018

A spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani, Shah Hussain Murtazawi, said that by midday Afghan forces were in full control of the city.

Taliban fighters hiding inside homes in the city's residential areas slipped into the streets attacking Afghan security forces, provincial police chief Farid Ahmad Mashal told Associated Press.

An investigation was launched to determine how the insurgents had managed to push so deeply into the city, which is only 120 kilometers (75 miles) south of Kabul.

Hemat, the hospital administrator, said two wounded civilians were brought to the hospital.

Mashal said there were more than 100 other casualties but could not give a breakdown of the dead and wounded.

The three were killed by an attacker on foot in Parwan Province on August 5, the deadliest attack on North Atlantic Treaty Organisation soldiers in several months.

The number of casualties is expected to rise as many houses were destroyed.

"There are Taliban militants in all roads and streets of the city, but they are facing strong resistance from government forces", he said.

He said the bodies of 39 Taliban soldiers were recovered beneath a bridge on the southern edge of the city.

The Taliban have so far failed to take and hold any provincial centre since they overran the northern city of Kunduz in 2015 before being driven off with the support of US air strikes and Special Forces units.

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Air strikes called in to quash the offensive also killed dozens of Taliban, he said.

Inside Ghazni city, residents were staying indoors making independent verification of the different claims impossible.

Heavy fighting was ongoing as of Friday afternoon in the city, where Afghan and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces were engaging fighters "by air and ground", Noori said.

A spokesman for US Forces in Afghanistan said the fighting had "ceased" as of Friday morning, hours after the insurgents began the assault late Thursday from several positions around the city.

There are about 14,000 US ground troops in Afghanistan, making up the bulk of NATO's Resolute Support force.

"Initial reports indicate minimal Afghan security force casualties", the U.S. spokesman later told AFP, adding that American forces deployed attack helicopters and conducted a drone strike in response.

He later told the Associated Press, however, that continued fighting had required USA aircraft to return to the city in a "show of presence".

Afghan forces have been struggling to hold back the resurgent militant group since the withdrawal of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation combat troops at the end of 2014.

President Ashraf Ghani held a meeting with top commanders in Kabul to discuss the situation in Ghazni, where the Taliban appear to have repeated the tactics that nearly gave them control of the western city of Farah in May.

Anticipation has also been mounting about the possibility of a government ceasefire announcement for the Islamic holiday of Eid-al Adha later this month.

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