Fight for Afghan city rages despite govt claim of upper hand

Smoke rising into the air after Taliban militants launched an attack on the Afghan provincial capital of Ghazni on August 10. — AFP

Smoke rising into the air after Taliban militants launched an attack on the Afghan provincial capital of Ghazni on August 10. — AFP

The Taliban pushed deep into the strategic city about 120 kilometres (75 miles) from the capital, Kabul.

O'Donnell also said "tactically, operationally and strategically, the Taliban achieved nothing with this failed attack except another eye-catching, but inconsequential headline".

Political analyst Atta Noori said the lack of official response to the mounting threat would likely dent already fraying public confidence in Kabul's ability to confront the Taliban.

Helmand is among the relatively volatile provinces in South of Afghanistan where the anti-government armed militants are actively operating in some of its districts and often carry out terrorist related activities.

The Taliban's multipronged assault, which began Friday, overwhelmed Ghazni's defences and allowed insurgents to capture several parts of it in a major show of force.

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They also reported heavy casualties on the Taliban side but didn't provide more details.

Afghan Army Chief of Staff Mohammad Sharif Yaftali said heavy fighting was taking place in Ghazni to push back the militants.

To hold on to the city in the fierce, daylong fighting, Afghan forces had to call in reinforcements as well as USA air power, including helicopter gunships, fighter jets and a drone strike.

Danish said more than 150 insurgents have been killed or wounded.

Lawmakers from Ghazni who managed to talk to some residents said the Taliban were in control of much of the city after launching an initial attack in the early hours of Friday.

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Many telecoms masts were destroyed during heavy fighting on Friday, making it hard to establish contact with the city, some two hours drive south of the capital Kabul, and there were conflicting accounts from government and Taliban spokesmen.

Taliban fighters continued to roam the city, torching government offices, and were in control of several police checkpoints, as reinforcements deployed from Kabul slowly entered the area to confront the insurgents.

"Only the governor's office, police headquarters and intelligence agency's compound are in the hands of the government", Ghazni provincial official says, amid government claim the city was firmly under its control not Taliban's. The government had been considering a ceasefire for the upcoming Eid al Adha holiday, similar to a truce in June over the Eid al Fitr holiday.

Instead, they appear 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 Taliban said they expect another round of talks. These and other moves boosted the number of US troops in Afghanistan by at least 3,500, to a total of more than 14,000.

The Taliban were ousted from power in 2011 following a USA invasion and ongoing occupation of the country.

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In a statement to the Associated Press, Suhail Shaheen, a spokesman for the Taliban's political office, claimed that the bilateral talks had covered everything from global troop withdrawal from Afghanistan to peace prospects and possible Uzbek-funded development projects that could include railway lines and electricity.

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