Taliban Launch Assault on Ghazni, a Crucial Afghan City
KABUL, Afghanistan &mdash Taliban insurgents entered the southeastern Afghan city of Ghazni prior to dawn on Friday, and within hours they claimed to have a lot of the provincial capital below their handle. If confirmed, the rout would be the insurgents&rsquo most critical strategic obtain in years.
Witnesses and overall health officials feared the casualty toll would be higher. Zahir Shah Nikmal, head of the provincial division of public well being, said 16 bodies and 40 wounded men and women had been brought to hospitals so far. Virtually all had been members of the security forces, he said, and officials were attempting to arrange evacuations by helicopter for the critically wounded.
Government officials denied the city had fallen, but they conceded that the insurgents have been inside 300 yards of the governor&rsquos workplace and police headquarters.
&ldquoFighting is ongoing but the entire city has not been taken by the Taliban,&rdquo Mohammad Arif Noori, the spokesman for Ghazni&rsquos governor, mentioned by phone. &ldquoWe will not allow them to take the city.&rdquo
It was the second determined assault on an Afghan city this year. In Could, insurgents overran the western city of Farah, but they left a day later amid counterattacks from the Afghan government and American airstrikes.
The only other city to have fallen to the Taliban considering that they had been driven from power in 2001 was Kunduz, in the far north, which the insurgents briefly occupied twice, in 2015 and 2016. Neither Farah nor Kunduz had been as strategically important as Ghazni, the capital of Ghazni Province.
Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman, mentioned on Twitter that the insurgents had infiltrated every single component of the city. &ldquoHundreds of Mujahedeen entered the city, captured the police headquarters and all six police districts and an crucial military base, Bala Hesar,&rdquo Mr. Mujahid said in an emailed statement.
&ldquoAttacks are underway on the governor&rsquos workplace, the N.D.S. headquarters and other government offices,&rdquo he said, making use of the acronym for the National Directorate for Safety, the Afghan intelligence agency.
Government officials denied a Taliban claim that the insurgents had shot down helicopters, but confirmed that two had been forced to make emergency landings. They stated both of the two helipads in the city had been under attack and evacuation helicopters have been struggling to land.
Residents reached by phone in numerous neighborhoods said that heavy fighting was ongoing about them.
&ldquoTaliban are fighting with their whole energy, they brought fighters from as a lot of districts and provinces as they could,&rdquo stated one particular resident, Nasir Ahmad Faqiri, a member of the provincial council. &ldquoThere are Taliban militants in all roads and streets of the city, but they are facing strong resistance from government forces.&rdquo
Ghazni, which the Afghan government says has a population of 280,000, sits on Highway 1, the critical north-south route between Kabul, the capital, and Kandahar, the country&rsquos second-biggest city. Travelers in Kandahar on Friday reported getting turned back because the insurgents had blocked the highway.
The American military mentioned it had sent helicopters to assistance Afghan troops in Ghazni, and that it had carried out a single airstrike, making use of a drone.
Afghan forces &ldquoheld their ground and maintain control of all government centers,&rdquo stated Lt. Col. Martin L. O&rsquoDonnell, a spokesman for the American military in Afghanistan. &ldquoThis is however one more failed Taliban attempt to seize terrain, which will outcome in however another eye-catching but strategically inconsequential headline.&rdquo
If the Taliban took Ghazni and held it, they would basically have cut off the conventional Taliban homelands in the south from northern Afghanistan and the capital. Mr. Mujahid stated the insurgents had closed Highway 1 to stop reinforcements from reaching Ghazni.
Brig. Gen. Mohammad Radmanish, the spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Defense, denied Ghazni was under any significant threat. &ldquoIt is just propaganda by the Taliban. The entire city is below the handle of Afghan forces,&rdquo he stated. Six Afghan soldiers had been killed in the fighting, he said.
Reinforcements started arriving in the city, but the government was hampered in carrying out airstrikes simply because the insurgents were operating in civilian neighborhoods.
&ldquoCommando forces are responding to the Taliban attack but we are not carrying out airstrikes to avoid civilian casualties,&rdquo mentioned Mr. Noori, the governor&rsquos spokesman. He accused the Taliban of using the civilian population as human shields. Eight civilians had been wounded so far, he said.
Ghazni&rsquos police chief, Col. Farid Ahmad Mashal, took to Facebook to say that the insurgents had been defeated, posing for photos with bodies of dead insurgent fighters in the streets.
&ldquoAll places are in our control,&rdquo Colonel Mashal stated in a video, as gunshots have been heard in the background. &ldquoMembers of the Parliament, all the individuals have picked up arms with us.&rdquo
A lot of places of Ghazni Province have been heavily contested by the insurgents in recent years, but this was the first serious try to take the provincial capital.
Arif Rahmani, a member of Parliament from Ghazni, mentioned the government had not acted on months of repeated warnings that the Taliban have been amassing about and inside the city. He mentioned that while the police had shown brave resistance given that the assault started, they have been low on ammunition and food and have been struggling with communications, with the Taliban having shut down phone networks.
&ldquoThe reality is that 70 percent of the burden of the fighting in Ghazni is on the shoulders of the police, and their structure has lengthy given that fallen apart,&rdquo Mr. Rahmani said.
A New York Instances reporter who visited Ghazni in Could found residents complaining that several Taliban insurgents were currently inside the city, and even collecting taxes from residents. Several expressed concern that the city would quickly be attacked.
The Ghazni assault comes at a critical stage in the Afghan war, when President Ashraf Ghani and the Americans have been trying to persuade the Taliban to enter peace talks.
Following a effective 3-day cease-fire in June that was observed scrupulously by each sides, several Afghans had been hoping for another cease-fire in the course of the Eid al-Adha holiday later this month. But Mr. Ghani was currently facing political opposition to one more such cease-fire, and the scenes from Ghazni have been unlikely to help his cause.
Published at Fri, 10 Aug 2018 10:52:21 +0000