Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Tuesday, September 18th, 2018

Taliban Fighters Storm Ghazni Province

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Taliban Fighters Storm Ghazni Province

Last Friday night, Taliban fighters attacked from four side Ghazni city which is one of the most strategic location in Afghanistan. They intensely attacked, burnt, bombed and destroyed several police checkpoints, bridges and seized control of different parts of the city. According to Tolo news, the clashes between security forces and Taliban started at around 2.00 AM, and have been continuing up to now (Saturday afternoon). There is no accurate report about total consequences of war in Ghazni as journalists cannot enter the city; as much as reflected in the media some public buildings and the telephone network have destroyed, water and electricity have been cut off while the war still continued in parts of the city. The Afghan Journalists Safety Community said on Friday that Taliban have burnt the Ghazni branch of state-run media, RTA, and killed one of its technical staff, Mohammad Dawood Jan.
“The Taliban have been dropping missiles near residential, public and commercial areas. There has not been a single minute of silence for the first eight hours,” said a senior government official in Ghazni on Friday. Local residents said Taliban fighters were walking openly in the streets in parts of the city. Ghazni police chief General Farid Ahmad Mashal said the Taliban seized several parts of the city, which has been under threat for months.
It seems that both sides have suffered heavy casualties in the ongoing heavy war but as Najib Danish, MOI spokesman said on Saturday afternoon that only 26 security forces were killed and wounded. While officials claimed that around 150 attackers had been killed or wounded from the insurgent group. Several dead bodies of Taliban militants remained on the street after the government pushed back the Taliban from some parts of the city, the police chief said. 
He said the bodies of 39 Taliban militants were recovered beneath a bridge in the southern edge of the city. Air strikes called in to quash the offensive also killed dozens of Taliban, he said. Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammad Radmanish said the army helped the police and the city was under control of government forces.
On the other hand, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid issued a statement on Friday saying multiple attacks were launched overnight in Ghazni. As many as 140 Afghan soldiers and police had been killed and a large quantity of weapons and equipment had been seized, he said.
He said only three Taliban had been killed and eight wounded. Inside Ghazni city, residents were staying indoors making independent verification of the different claims impossible. While, O’Donnell said initial reports indicated minimal casualties among security forces. “This is another failed Taliban attempt to seize terrain, which will result in another eye-catching but strategically inconsequential headline,” he said.
The Taliban also claimed that they had downed the “enemy” helicopter in Ghazni but Radmanish said it was not immediately clear if the helicopter had been hit or crash landed due to other reasons. They (Taliban) targeted the vehicles.
Landmines were planted, bridges were destroyed, they also opened fire on us. Many drivers had been hit,” said Abdullah, a driver. “We stranded for two hours in Sayed Abad district. Clashws were ongoing in Chashm-e-Salar, so we returned,” said Mohammad Zia, a driver. Finally, they blocked Kabul-Kandahar Highway that connects Afghanistan’s capital Kabul to the southern city of Kandahar after the group launched an overnight attack on Ghazni City.
These attack came amid growing hopes of talks to end 17 years of war in Afghanistan and less than two weeks before the Eid al-Adha festival, when the government in Kabul had been considering offering a ceasefire. In June, a three-day truce over the Eid al-Fitr holiday brought unprecedented scenes of unarmed Taliban fighters mingling with security forces in Kabul and other cities, offering a glimpse of peace and fueling hopes of negotiations to end the war.
This is sensitive time as Taliban are intensifying a series of operations during preliminary peace discussions with U.S. officials and on the eve of election to show their ability to inflict severe damage on Afghan forces. Just last week, an attack on an army post in Uruzgan, a province bordering Ghazni, killed dozens of soldiers, adding to what one U.S. report called the “shockingly high” casualties taken ever since NATO ended its main combat mission in 2014.
By and large, the Ghani province is still under serious threats; Mohammad Ali Alizada, a member of parliament representing Ghazni people warned, “if we do not take urgent action against fragile condition a vast tragedy may take place in the city.” He also blamed the government for inability and inattention to Ghazni province while threats were frequently reminded to the government officials.  He stressed that large of number of insurgents newly entered in the city and occupied civilian houses, from where they keeping up fire on security forces.
However, the President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani hold an urgent high level meeting of the Commander-in-Chief meeting after a coordinated the attack. The Office of the President, ARG Palace, in a statement said the high level meeting of the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces was organized and chaired by President Ghani in the Ministry of Defense.
The statement further added that the meeting was attended by leadership of the national defense and security institutions and the security situation of Ghazni, Farah, and Zabul provinces were reviewed. So, it is hoped to take serious action against critical condition of Ghazni province as soon as possible.

Mohammad Zahir Akbari is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at mohammadzahirakbari@gmail.com

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