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Ghazni fighting leaves 100 Afghan forces dead

By Farhad Naibkhel-KABUL: The battle for key Afghan city intensified Monday as Afghan forces pushed on with a full-scale onslaught for control of embattled Ghazni and flushing out of Taliban militants, as humanitarian situation is worsening amid food scarcity.

“1,000 additional forces including army, police and Special Forces have been sent to Ghazni and began an onslaught from four sides to push the Taliban back,” said Minister of Defense Tariq Shah Bahrami. He said the offensive was backed up by air force and resolute support mission.

The fighting against insurgents continued and Afghan forces have made gains against Taliban, Bahrami said in a joint press conference with Minister of Interior. To that end, Chief of Army Staff and Deputy Interior Minister have gone to Ghazni to closely oversee the operations and that Afghan forces will push with the offensive to first rid the city of militants and later beef up security along the highway.

After forcing their way into Ghazni on Thursday night, the Taliban perpetrated violence and attacked government institutions and residential houses along with them.

Accompanied by foreign terrorists from Chechnya, Pakistan and Arab world, the Taliban had converged in Ghazni city from across the country and staged the cruel attack to claim the city; they faced resistance though, he stated.

More than 194 Taliban militants including their commanders and foreign terrorists were killed during counteroffensive of Afghan forces since the fight broke out. “Only today, 95 of them were killed in airstrikes”.

“As many as 100 Afghan forces and 20 to 30 civilians have been killed during the fighting,” he said.

“We have cleared the 1st Police District from Taliban, “Minister of Interior Wais Ahmad Barmak said, brushing off reports that Taliban had assumed control of prison, police headquarters and Bala-e-Hesar area and that there was no prison break either. “Situation in Ghazni has turned in favor of Afghan forces.

The Taliban have positioned in mosque and residential areas, where Afghan forces struggled to conduct operation with full caution in order to prevent civilian casualties.

Minister said that heavy casualty incurred to Taliban in the past four days, but not mentioned any figure.

He said that unfortunately 70 police were also killed during clashes in past four days in Ghazni.

Transferring of killed and wounded of Afghan forces has been started through air and ground, he mentioned.

Work is underway to send humanitarian assistance to the province and some relief items prepared to be sent soon to the province.

A Resolute Support and U.S. Forces-Afghanistan spokesman, O’DONNELL, Martin L.via releasing a statement said that “Ghazni City remains under Afghan government control, and the isolated and disparate Taliban forces remaining in the city do not pose a threat to its collapse as some have claimed.

That said, the Taliban’s attempts to hide themselves amongst the Afghan populace does pose a threat to the civilian population, who were terrorized and harassed by this ineffective attack and the subsequent execution of innocents, destruction of homes and burning of a market.

Clearly the Taliban have paid no heed to the Afghan peoples’ calls for them to reconcile and join the peace process.

Claims of Highway 1 being closed and prisoners being freed are also false.  Highway 1 is open and Afghan forces are occupying key checkpoints to maintain security.  And Afghan forces repelled an ineffective Taliban attack against the city prison, August 12, which remains firmly under government control.

That said, clearing operations are ongoing and sporadic clashes with the Taliban, particularly outside the city, continue.

As Lt. Gen. Mohammed Sharif Yaftali, Afghan Ministry of Defense chief of general staff, said during a press conference yesterday, the Afghan forces are focused on clearing the city entirely, but clearance operations will take time so as to avoid civilian casualties, financial loss and destruction to the city – things the Taliban care little about.

In terms of Resolute Support and U.S. Forces-Afghanistan support to the Afghan-led clearance operation, U.S. advisors are assisting the Afghan forces and U.S. airpower has delivered decisive blows to the Taliban, killing more than 140 since, August 10.  In addition to the initial strike and close-air support on Friday, U.S. forces conducted five strikes Saturday, 16 strikes Sunday and two thus far today.

Again, tactically, operationally and strategically, the Taliban achieved nothing with this failed attack except another eye-catching, but inconsequential headline.  The fact remains that the Taliban are unable to seize terrain and unable to match the Afghan security forces or our enablement, retreating once directly and decisively engaged.”

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