Afghan officials, Taliban both claim city

15 August, 2018, 12:27 | Author: Edward Snyder
  • Smoke rising into the air after Taliban militants launched an attack on the Afghan provincial capital of Ghazni on August 10. — AFP

But Mohammad Sharif Yaftali, Afghan army chief of staff, said the city was not under threat of collapse and heavy fighting was under way to push back the Taliban from the city limits.

His words were echoed by Gen Yafti, who told reporters: "Strategic locations and centres in the city are under the control of Afghan forces and the Taliban are hiding inside people's homes and shops and resisting". US and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces remain in Afghanistan mainly in a supporting and training role in the 17-year-old war.

More than 100 people were killed and 133 injured as hundreds of Taliban militants launched an attack in Afghanistan's city of Ghazni since August 10.

Taking Ghazni, even briefly, would be the Taliban's most important victory yet.

For all the talk of peace negotiations, the Taliban have stepped up attacks on provincial centers and the capital Kabul this year, demonstrating their continued ability to hit the US -supported forces.

The Taliban's four-day trip to Uzbekistan, which ended Friday, was the strongest sign yet of the group's growing regional clout, while the Ghazni assault has highlighted its military prowess.

The Taliban frequently exaggerate territorial gains.

"Tactically, operationally and strategically, the Taliban achieved nothing with this failed attack except another eye-catching, but inconsequential headline", he added.

Afghan forces have been struggling to hold back the resurgent militant group since the withdrawal of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation combat troops at the end of 2014.

In May the Taliban attacked the western city of Farah.

All telecommunication services were shut down due to the clashes, and contacts with officials in the city could not be established over the phone.

The Taliban has ignored an offer by the government for direct peace negotiations.

Suhail Shaheen, spokesman for the Taliban's political office in Qatar, said in a statement to The Associated Press on Saturday that discussions covered everything from withdrawal of global troops from Afghanistan to peace prospects and possible Uzbek-funded development projects that could include railway lines and electricity.

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. Washington has held preliminary talks with the insurgents in an attempt to find a negotiated end to Afghanistan's protracted war.

Still, Andrew Wilder, vice president of Asia programs at the U.S. Institute of Peace said Washington would welcome a "constructive" Russian role in finding a way toward a peace pact in Afghanistan.

The Taliban say they met with Alice Wells, the top US diplomat for South Asia, in Qatar last month for preliminary talks.

The attack on Ghazni leaves the future of peace talks with the Taleban uncertain.

But the Taliban have so far ignored Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's offer of unconditional peace negotiations even though their representatives met United States officials in Qatar last month and are to hold another meeting next month.



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