Ghazni attack: 70 policemen killed in Afghanistan's provincial capital

16 August, 2018, 18:54 | Author: Wade Massey
  • Ghazni attack: 70 policemen killed in Afghanistan's provincial capital

In Kabul, Nilab Mobarez, the secretary general of the Afghan Red Crescent Society, said Tuesday that her organization is ready to go into Ghazni and help the wounded - both the civilians and the combatants.

In addition to Ghazni's importance for the central government, its namesake province in eastern Afghanistan has always been considered a stronghold of the Taliban, as it straddles the group's supply routes to and from Pakistan.

The government has faced accusations of incompetence, neglect and complacency, as well as anger at its repeated assurances that the Taliban attack had failed, even while hundreds of fighters were roaming at will through the city.

Dozens more are feared captured in what is seen as a stinging blow to the security forces already struggling to push insurgents from eastern Ghazni. The Taliban pushed deep into the strategic city about 120 kilometers (75 miles) from the capital, Kabul.

The Taliban seized 14 armoured military vehicles, heavy guns, weapons and ammunition after the seizure of the base in the province, 425 km northwest of Kabul.

"About 100 security forces" members and up to 30 civilians have been killed during the brutal battle, Afghan Defense Minister Tariq Shah Bahrami said.

Western diplomats said the fighting raised questions about the viability of the US strategy to end the war, which for the past year has focused on pressing the militants, largely with more air strikes, to force them to the negotiating table.

But in others "the Taliban have positioned their fighters in high buildings shooting at security forces from there", he added. He didn't offer a breakdown of the casualties but Interior Minister Wais Ahmad Barmak said almost 70 policemen were among those killed.

Bahrami added that additional troops including ANA, ANP and NDS have been deployed to Ghazni to conduct clearance operations and to secure the highway.

The Taliban destroyed a telecommunications tower on Ghazni's outskirts during the initial assault, cutting off landline and cellphone links to the city.

He said Ghazni will see a major turnaround for the better within the next 24 hours.

Their son and two daughters were wounded by shrapnel from an airstrike on the Taliban near a mosque.

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An army spokesman, Mohammad Hanif Rezaee, said 100 Afghan soldiers were at the base, known as Camp Chinaya, when the Taliban began their assault against it on August 12.

'I saw two trucks full of coffins going toward a cemetery in the city. "It will take months for it all to be rebuilt", he said.

The U.N. expressed concern for the civilians caught up in the fighting. We have received initial reports of a number of civilian casualties and of people trying to reach safe areas outside of the city", said Rik Peeperkorn, acting United Nations humanitarian coordinator for Afghanistan.

"Medication at the main hospital is reportedly becoming scarce and people are unable to safely bring casualties for treatment", Peeperkorn said in a statement released Monday. Electricity, water supply and food are also running low, it said.

The attack began on Friday, with insurgents infiltrating people's homes and slipping out into the night to attack Afghan forces in Ghazni. The Taliban are going from house to house to find government officials or their relatives to kill", said one resident, Sayed Zia.

Top security and government officials, including the military chief of staff, were now in Ghazni, leading the "clearing-up operations" in different parts of the city, Barmak said.

The operations came on the fifth day after a massive Taliban attack on Ghazni. Mohammad said locals were coming out of Ghazni and military convoys were heading in.

"The Taliban know this and they make Afghan forces fight on several fronts, making them run thin", said Sofof.

Security forces have struggled to hold back the Taliban since North Atlantic Treaty Organisation combat troops pulled out of the country in 2014. The government controlled only 229 of Afghanistan's 407 districts, while the rest were either in the hands of militants or contested. Bahrami said 341 Taliban fighters were killed or wounded in the battle for Ghazni.

The Taliban has long demanded direct talks with the U.S.as a way around consulting with their own Afghan government. It also appeared that the tide of battle turned only after the arrival of Afghan special operations forces and USA military advisers during the weekend, as well as repeated aerial attacks and flyovers by US military aircraft. It also shifted A-10 attack planes and other aircraft from striking Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq to Afghanistan.

"Much like Bush and Obama, the Trump administration has other areas of the world that it would rather focus on, whether it's the Korean Peninsula or Iran or China more broadly, and to move on, if possible, from Afghanistan", Jones said. Although Kabul is also supplied from Pakistan, the trade route to Iran and the Gulf supplies the northern half or the country with many essentials.

The fall of Ghazni, a city of 270,000 people, would mark an important victory for the Taliban.

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