- About 100 Afghan policemen and soldiers and at least 20 civilians were killed in Ghazni.
- The Taliban launched assaults on the city and other areas of Afghanistan starting Friday.
- Just over 190 Taliban insurgents are believed to have been killed.
Afghan security forces sustained terrible casualties in the face of Taliban assaults over the weekend, losing more than 100 men in a four-day battle for the city of Ghazni, plus dozens more in multiple attacks elsewhere in the country.
A death toll released Monday by Afghanistan’s defense ministry provided the first official accounting of government losses since Taliban fighters launched a brazen assault on Ghazni early Friday.
About 100 Afghan policemen and soldiers and at least 20 civilians have been killed in the city, the Associated Press reported, citing defense minister Gen. Tareq Shah Bahrami, who said he expected the numbers to rise. He also said 194 Taliban insurgents were killed, among them foreign fighters from with Pakistan Chechnya and Arab countries.
Attacking from four directions, the insurgents burned government offices and captured police checkpoints, leading to intense clashes with government reinforcements that had to be deployed from Kabul. The fighting continued throughout the weekend, and as of Monday, Taliban fighters remained in the city, hiding in residential areas and using civilian homes as command posts, the New York Times reported. (RELATED: US-Backed Afghan Forces Fail To Drive Off Taliban In Three-Day Battle)
Located about 75 miles south of the capital of Kabul, Ghazni city straddles an important corridor that links the country’s northern and southern provinces. The province of Ghazni has been heavily contested by Taliban forces in recent years, but this weekend’s assault marks the first time the insurgents have tried to seize the provincial capital.
Bahrami said Monday that an additional 1,000 Afghan troops have been sent to Ghanzi to prevent it from falling to the Taliban fighters. The reinforcements have managed to retain control of key government positions in the city, he added.
But some local officials said the situation in Ghazni is still dire even as more Afghan troops, backed by American forces, arrived to clear the city of Taliban fighters.
“Heavy fighting is ongoing around the governor’s office, the Police Headquarters and the compound of the intelligence agency,” Nasir Ahmad Faqiri, a member of the provincial council, told TheNYT. “The forces in Ghazni have resisted well, but naturally they have fought so long. The reinforcements have not done anything effective.”
Elsewhere in Afghanistan, Taliban fighters launched bloody attacks on Afghan army positions that left dozens of troops dead and wounded. In the Ajristan District of Ghazni province, about 90 miles west of the provincial capital, the Taliban overran an elite commando unit that was defending the area. It was not immediately clear how many soldiers were killed, but the Afghan defense ministry estimated the death toll to be between 40 and 100 as of Sunday morning.
In northwestern Faryab Province, the Tailban attacked a remote Afghan National Army outpost of 100 soldiers in a pre-dawn assault early Sunday. More than half of the troops defending base the were either killed or wounded, TheNYT reported, citing First Lt. Shah Fahim, the platoon commander in charge.
The wave of Taliban assaults demonstrated the group’s capacity to wreak havoc even though it does not formally control any provincial capitals. Although the insurgency is not potent enough to capture and hold major urban areas, it can attack Afghan government forces at will and then melt into the surrounding countryside. (RELATED: The Taliban Almost Took Over An Afghan City, Proving It’s Far From ‘Losing Ground’)
This weekend’s fighting comes as Washington and the U.S.-backed government in Kabul are trying to persuade the Taliban to enter peace talks to wind down the nearly 17-year-old war. U.S. diplomats reportedly met directly with Taliban leaders in Qatar in July, a reversal of Washington’s longstanding insistence that Kabul lead negotiations with the insurgent group.
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