Afghan forces battle Taliban for key city for fourth day

Afghan forces battle Taliban for key city for fourth day

The descriptions from the residents stand in stark contrast to statements released by US and Afghan officials who reassured the public that government forces were firmly in control of the city, vowing that Ghazni was in no danger of being seized by the Taliban.

Afghan forces battled the Taliban in a key provincial capital for the fourth straight day on Monday, following a massive assault on the eastern city last week that overwhelmed its defensed and allowed insurgents to capture several parts of it, officials said.

Speaking at a press conference in the capital, Kabul, Bahrami said 194 Taliban fighters, including 12 of their "key commanders" had also been killed, mostly by United States air raids.

Afghan officials said USA special forces units were on the ground helping to coordinate air strikes and ground operations and the US military said its aircraft had launched two dozen air strikes since Friday.

"It is over and the city is taken", said a man standing outside his home, with several Taliban fighters nearby. It would also cut off a key highway linking Kabul to the southern provinces, the Taliban's traditional heartland. Electricity, water supply and food are also running low, the statement said.

Gen. Sharif Yaftali, the Afghan military's chief of staff, said Sunday that all strategic and government offices in Ghazni are still under government control.

A doctor in the hospital's intensive care unit said they had received over 80 dead bodies as of Sunday and had treated more than 160 patients, many of whom were had been injured by gunshots or shrapnel.

O'Donnell said there was no threat the local government would collapse, but "clearing operations are ongoing and sporadic clashes with the Taliban, particularly outside the city, continued".

"They especially want to show those backing the government in Kabul that the Taliban can't be ignored", said Omarkhil.

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Andrew Wilder, vice president of Asia programs at the U.S. Institute of Peace, said the Taliban's attack on Ghazni was "a well-timed effort to demonstrate their military power to strengthen their negotiating position prior to another ceasefire and in the event of peace talks". That has demonstrated the militants' ability to attack, if not hold, a strategic center on the nation's main highway, and highlighted the vulnerability of Afghan security forces.

USA and Afghan officials have said the prospects for peace talks are encouraging.

The U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation formally concluded their combat mission in Afghanistan at the end of 2014, but have since then repeatedly come to the aid of Afghan forces as they struggle to combat the resurgent Taliban.

"Medication at the main hospital is reportedly becoming very scarce and people are unable to safely bring casualties for treatment", Dr. Richard Peeperkorn, acting humanitarian coordinator for Afghanistan, said in a statement. Washington neither confirmed nor denied the meeting, but acknowledged Wells was in Qatar, where the Taliban maintain an office.

There were quick assurances that the Taliban had been pushed back to the outskirts shortly after Friday.

"They (Taliban) steal people's belongings". It also shifted A-10 attack planes and other aircraft from striking Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq to Afghanistan.

"Ghazni city is the gate to Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan".

Diplomats in Kabul said the government had admitted being taken by surprise by the attack and after days with minimal public comment from the presidential palace, Ghani announced on Twitter that reinforcements would be sent urgently.

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