On August 15th, the Taliban assault on the Afghan city of Ghazni entered its 6th day of fighting.
During a press conference on August 13th, Minister of Defense Tariq Shah Bahrami said on that more than 194 Taliban members, including their commanders have been killed. “Only today, 95 of them were killed in airstrikes,” he said. He also added that more than 100 Afghan forces and approximately 30 civilians had been killed during the fighting.
“Security forces were mobilized from surrounding provinces to help repel the Taliban attack on Ghazni. Senior officials are in Ghazni including the army chief of staff,” said Bahrami. According to him, 50 commandos reported missing earlier in the day had been accounted for. He said by mid-afternoon, 35 had withdrawn to neighboring Daikundi province and the rest were on their way. He said Ghazni will see a major turnaround for the better within the next 24 hours, as reported by Tolo News.
During the same press conference, Minister of interior Wais Ahmad Barmak announced “We have cleared the 1st Police District from Taliban.” He further rejected reports that Taliban had assumed control of prison, police headquarters and Bala-e-Hesar area. “The Situation in Ghazni has turned in favor of Afghan forces,” he claimed. He also noted that there have been heavy casualties incurred to the Taliban in the past few days, without quoting any numbers.
The attack on Ghazni is a major show of force by the Taliban as capturing city in the east of the country would cut off a key highway linking Kabul to the south, which is under Taliban control.
On August 13th, the Afghanistan Ministry of Defense announced that the battle to retake Ghazni is drawing to a close and that the Afghan Security Forces are advancing against the Taliban in most parts of the city. “Afghan security forces are almost in control of Ghazni as they push on against enemy positions,” said Jawid Ghafori, the Ministry of Defense spokesman. He also announced that normalcy had returned to some areas of the city. According to the statement, the fight continued in the city’s outskirts and the government sources held the upper hand. He claimed that the Taliban death toll stood at 326 and many wounded. The Afghan Security Forces losses are at 100, including 70 police officers and 30 soldiers. Also, according to the spokesman, 30 to 40 civilians have been killed in the fighting. The Ghazni-Kandahar highway remained closed.
Nasart Rahimi, a deputy spokesman at the Interior Ministry, said security forces were searching every inch of Ghazni for remaining Taliban fighters on Tuesday.
The UN, however, citing unconfirmed sources, claims that civilian casualties number at around 100, as reported by France 24. The outlet also reported that despite the Afghan government’s announcement, citing residents who claim that Talibans still remained entrenched in Ghazni.
On August 14th, the Taliban released a 12-minute video showing footage of the group inside the city. The video was released by the Taliban media wing El Amara and shows a compilation of footage from inside the city and from its outskirts. The fighters were shown inside the city in one of the main squares.
“The Taliban got near the city in a step-by-step way. They started by taking checkpoints near the city, then military outposts, then military barracks, and then they entered the city and they controlled up to seven districts inside the city,” explained Wassim Nasr, France 24’s expert.
During the attack on Ghazni, on August 13th Taliban forces also overran a base in northern Afghanistan, killing 17 soldiers. As reported by the Time there were concerns about the remaining soldiers in the base, known as Camp Chinaya. Taliban forces claimed that that dozens had surrendered to them while others were captured in battle. Spokesman for the defense ministry, Ghafoor Ahmad Jawed said that the attack, which took place in the Faryab province, in the district of Ghormach, and left 17 dead and 19 wounded.
Local provincial council chief, Mohammad Tahir Rahmani said that the base fell to the Taliban after a three-day siege, however no reinforcements arrived to the Afghan Security forces in it, furthermore they ran out of provisions. He said that 43 Taliban troops were killed and wounded in the attack, however it was not sufficient.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack, saying 57 Afghan soldiers had surrendered to the Taliban while 17 others were captured in battle. He said eight military Humvees were also seized.
In recent months, the Taliban have seized several districts across Afghanistan, staging near-daily attacks on security forces, but they have been unable to capture and hold urban areas. The US and NATO which still assist the Afghan Security Forces formally concluded their combat missions in Afghanistan in 2014.
The attack on Ghazni poses a humanitarian crisis. Dr. Rik Peeperkorn, acting U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Afghanistan said that the 270,000 people who live in Ghazni are in an increasingly dangerous situation. “Medication at the main hospital is reportedly becoming scarce and people are unable to safely bring casualties for treatment. Main access roads both north and south of the city to larger cities where medical facilities are available are contested and unsafe for people to travel,” he said in a statement released on August 13th.
At the same time, the Afghanistan Times reported on August 14th that the Afghan government is optimistic regarding the direct talks between the Taliban and the US diplomats. Atta Salim, deputy chief of the High Peace Council was quoted by the Guardian as saying that the US-Taliban talks were a strategic development. “Our prediction was that Taliban will reach this round. We were prepared and will attend the initial meetings and will talk to the armed Taliban on behalf of the people of Afghanistan,” he said.
Afghanistan Times also further cited the Guardian which has quoted an unnamed Taliban source in the Quetta council, who claims that the fourth round of talks between Taliban and US officials would begin in September. The anonymous source also claimed that talks with Afghan officials will be held after the September dialogues. However, the Taliban’s official spokesman has rejected the report.