Wednesday, 17 October, 2018

Taliban launches attack in Afghanistan; U.S. forces respond

The attack on Ghazni comes as the Taliban faces growing pressure to agree to peace talks with the Afghan government to end the 17-year war The attack on Ghazni comes as the Taliban faces growing pressure to agree to peace talks with the Afghan government to end the 17-year war
Faye Gross | 11 August, 2018, 10:08

Taliban fighters stormed a provincial capital in Afghanistan before dawn on Friday, exchanging fire with security forces and reportedly leaving several dead.

All shops in the city were closed due to the fighting.

"Meetings by the US, China, Saudi Arabia or any other country with the Taliban is only aimed to facilitate the direct talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government", said HPC spokesman Sayed Ehsan Tahiri.

The attack around 80 miles south of Kabul was the militants' second all-out assault on a provincial capital this year and was one of their most audacious operations to date.

Baz Mohammad Himmat, head of the civilian hospital in Ghazni, said at least 16 people had been killed in the melee, including 14 soldiers and two residents.

US forces "responded with close-air support" in Ghazni, while Afghan security forces "held their ground" and maintained control of all government buildings.

Sporadic gunfire continued to echo, with officials telling residents to stay in their homes as Taliban fighters continued to roam the streets. "There has not been a single minute of silence for the last eight hours", said a senior government official in Ghazni told Reuters early on Friday. After a day of intense fighting, Afghan commandos and U.S. air strikes drove the group to the outskirts of the city.

The insurgents frequently exaggerate their battlefield gains and downplay losses incurred during fighting.

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A spokesperson said the attack was "another failed Taliban attempt to seize terrain, which will result in yet another eye-catching, but strategically inconsequential headline". Taliban militants and insurgents belonging to the other groups have been active in Ghazni province, and Taliban fighters captured a district there and killed its governor in April.

The Taliban have stepped up attacks across the country since North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the United States formally ended their combat mission in 2014, and have seized control of several districts.

They came close to repeating the feat in 2016, and in May this year they almost overran the western city of Farah before being beaten back with the aid of USA forces.

The insurgents have also so far ignored an offer by Ghani in February of unconditional peace negotiations. "In addition, U.S. aircraft conducted a show of presence", Lt Col. Martin O'Donnell, spokesman for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, said in an emailed statement.

On August 6, the Financial Times reported that Chinese officials had reportedly met the Afghan Taliban several times in the past year.

Forces in Afghanistan are applying military pressure on the Taliban to convince them to enter talks toward reconciliation with the Afghan government, Votel noted.

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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