Approximately 100 soldiers of the Afghan Special Forces have gone missing in Afghanistan’s Ghazni province, as announced by Afghan authorities on August 13th.
The Afghan Special Forces, who are backed by US airstrikes are fighting the Taliban in the province.
Afghanistan’s Tolo News reported that “10 personnel of the missing unit had been killed and 20 others discovered alive” in the Ajristan district.
On August 10th, the Taliban began an assault on the city of Ghazni which as of August 14th is still on-going. The city is located 125 km south of Kabul. The fighting began after hundreds of Taliban insurgents stormed important government entities including the National Directorate for Security (Afghanistan’s Inteligence Agency) and the provincial governor’s office.
Ghazni lies on the Kabul-Kandahar highway, an important artery connecting the capital to the country’s southern provinces and some of its western ones.
The death toll is above 300, including civilians, security forces and Taliban fighters according to Afghan government officials, cited by Al Jazeera.
On August 13th, Defence Minister Tariq Shah Bahrami said on Monday “about 100 security forces” were killed in the intense fighting, as well “between 20 and 30 civilians”.
Bahrami, while speaking at a press conference in Kabul also said that 194 Taliban fighters, as well as 12 of their “key commanders” have been killed, mostly by US airstrikes. According to the US military headquarters in Kabul, the US have conducted at least 9 air strikes on August 11th and 12th. Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani has also ordered for more troops to be sent to Ghanzi.
Information on the conflict is limited, as Al Jazeera reported that most of the telecom masts have been destroyed and local media stopped broadcasting. Roads in and out of the city have been blocked and damaged by the Taliban forces to prevent Afghan reinforcements.
Rik Peeperkorn, acting UN humanitarian coordinator for Afghanistan, expressed concerns for the civilians living in Ghazni. “[Ghazni’s residents] have seen their city turn into a battlefield since Friday morning … parties across the conflict need to ensure that access to medical services is not denied and respect for medical facilities and staff is upheld,” his statement said.
The conflict comes as the US and the Afghan government are in peace talks with the Taliban.
Al Jazeera quotes government officials who admit that they have been taken by surprise by the Taliban attack, however insisted that Ghazni would not fall under their control. Afghan forces reportedly remained in control of key government positions and the institutions in the city.
On August 12th, Najib Danish, the Interior Ministry’s spokesman, said reinforcements have been sent Ghazni and were trying to clear it of the Taliban.
The assault on Ghazni is the largest tactical operation launched by the Taliban forces since the three-day truce during the Islam holiday Eid in June.