Intense fighting in Afghan city Ghazni as Taliban presses

Larry Hoffman
August 15, 2018

The Taliban on Sunday continued with their offensive to seize control of the strategic easter Afghan city of Ghazni, the third day in a row on which their forces battled government troops supported by United States airstrikes.

The Taliban fighters set fire to the local TV building and also destroyed the telecommunications tower, located just outside the city, cutting all cellphone and land line access to Ghazni, said Ali Akbar Kasemi, a lawmaker from the city.

Top security and government officials, including the military chief of staff, were now in Ghazni, leading the "clearing-up operations" in different parts of the city, Barmak said.

"The central government in Kabul said the situation in Ghazni was under their control, but we managed to contact officials in Ghazni who said that fighting was underway in areas surrounding Ghazni", said the parliamentarian.

"Afghan security forces in the next two days will be able to restore peace and stability to Ghanzi and reopen the highway to enable our countrymen to travel from south and west to Kabul", vowed the army chief.

"The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces continue to hold their ground and maintain control of all government centres", Lt-Col Martin O'Donnell, US Forces Afghanistan spokesman, said in an emailed statement.

The most intense fighting, he said, was under way near a prison holding Taliban fighters on the southeastern edge of the city, 80 miles southeast of the capital Kabul.

The assault was a major show of force by the Taliban, who had infiltrated deep into the city and attacked from several directions.

The Paktia convoy is not however the only convoy on its way to Ghazni.

Mohammad Rahim Hasanyar, a senator from the province, said reinforcements from the capital, Kabul, had not moved past Rawza, a town located 2km north-east of Ghazni, the capital of the province of the same name.

For all the talk of peace negotiations, the Taliban have stepped up attacks on provincial centers and the capital Kabul this year, demonstrating their continued ability to hit the USA -supported forces. The government had been considering a ceasefire over this month's Eid al Adha holiday to match a similar truce during June's Eid al Fitr holiday.

The Taliban seem to be intent on seeking a position of strength ahead of expected talks with the United States, which has been at war in Afghanistan for almost 17 years. The insurgent group last month held a preliminary round of talks with a high-level American delegation in Qatar.

Still, there was no indication from either side that progress toward substantive talks between the Taliban and the government was made.

Last year, there were reports that the son of Tahir Yuldashev, the powerful Uzbek leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, who was killed in a US missile strike in Pakistan in 2009, was leading efforts to help expand IS influence in Afghanistan. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall.

Losing Ghazni to the Taliban would essentially cut Afghanistan in half, closing its second-busiest trade route.

Likewise, most residents were trapped inside the city.

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