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Afghan government sends reinforcements to battle Taliban in Ghazni

Both government and Taliban have claimed control of the city

The Afghan government on Monday sent reinforcements to the embattled city of Ghazni in an attempt to rout Taliban fighters who are trying to take over the city for a fourth day.

The reinforcements will be sent from Kabul “as soon as possible,” said Mohammad Haroon Chakhansuri, a spokesperson for President Ashraf Ghani’s office said on Monday, August 13.

Around 100 soldiers and police officers were killed in three days of fighting, as well as at least 20 civilians, according to officials. The Ministry of Interior said on Monday that 70 police officers were among the dead, Tolo News reported.

The reinforcements include 1,000 extra troops, Minister of National Defense Tariq Shah Bahrami said.

“In the next 24 hours, Ghazni will be completely under the control of government forces,” he said at a press conference in Kabul.

The government, NATO’s Resolute Support mission and the U.S. military maintain that the Afghan government is in control of Ghazni, even as the city remains with out electricity and telecommunications and dead bodies reportedly line the streets.

“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,” Lieutenant Colonel Martin O’Donnell, spokesperson for Resolute Support and U.S. Forces – Afghanistan told The Defense Post.

“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.”

U.S. forces carried out two strikes on Monday and 21 over the weekend (five on Saturday and 16 on Sunday), O’Donnell said. The strikes have killed more than 140 insurgents since Saturday. Bahrami said 197 Taliban were dead in total, including 12 ‘leaders’ and Arab, Chechen and Pakistani foreign fighters.

O’Donnell disputed the insurgents’ claim that they have freed prisoners from the city prison, which attacked over the weekend. Additionally, he said Highway 1 remains open and Afghan forces are occupying key checkpoints to maintain security.

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

Bahrami said the additional troops would back up forces securing the highway and clearing the city.

Afghanistan security forces in Ghazni
Afghanistan security forces in Ghazni on August 12, 2018. Image: Afghanistan National Directorate of Security

AFP on Monday reported residents as saying that communication networks remained “mostly down,” and people hiding in their basements. Fayeza Fayez, a journalist who fled Ghazni over the weekend, said many people were still hiding in their basements as fighting continued “from street to street.”

After a drone strike on Friday, O’Donnell told The Defense Post that U.S. forces dispatched AH-64 Apache attack helicopters to Ghazni while a B-1 Lancer heavy bomber aircraft “conducted a show of presence.”

Afghan Ministry of Defense chief of general staff Lieutenant General Mohammed Sharif Yaftali signaled on Sunday that the clearance operations could take some time, in order to avoid civilian casualties and further destruction to the city.

“Tactically, operationally and strategically, the Taliban achieved nothing with this failed attack except another eye-catching, but inconsequential headline,” O’Donnell said.

But the United Nations warned on Monday of humanitarian concerns as food prices rose and medicine ran short.

“Medication at the main hospital is reportedly becoming scarce and people are unable to safely bring casualties for treatment,” the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a statement.

With reporting from AFP

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