Published: Fri, August 10, 2018

US launches airstrikes as Taliban attack Afghan city

US launches airstrikes as Taliban attack Afghan city

Heavily armed Taliban fighters attacked Ghazni city in central Afghanistan early on Friday, shelling houses and business areas and gaining control of parts of the city centre, officials said.

But with Taliban fighters believed to be hiding in residential areas, it was unclear whether the government had full control of the city.

The attack around 80 miles south of Kabul was the militants' second all-out assault on a provincial capital this year and was one of their most audacious operations to date.

USA forces have launched airstrikes to counter a strategic Taliban assault on a key Afghan city.

The Taliban issued a statement claiming to have captured "most of the government buildings inside the city", and claiming to have killed and wounded 140 security forces.

US forces "responded with close-air support" in Ghazni, while Afghan security forces "held their ground" and maintained control of all government buildings.

Sporadic gunfire continued to echo, with officials telling residents to stay in their homes as Taliban fighters continued to roam the streets.

At least one Afghan soldier has been killed and seven others wounded in the fighting, provincial governor spokesman Arif Noori said.

"This is yet another failed Taliban attempt to seize terrain, which will result in yet another eye-catching, but strategically inconsequential headline", he said.

Airstrikes called in to quash the offensive also killed dozens of Taliban, Mashal said.

A report in 2017 by SIGAR, a U.S. Congressional watchdog, said the losses were "shockingly high" but Afghan authorities no longer release overall casualty data.

Ghazni police chief General Farid Ahmad Mashal said the Taliban seized several parts of the city, which has been under threat for months with heavy fighting in surrounding districts.

Lieutenant Colonel Martin O'Donnell, a spokesman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said American forces and USA attack helicopters assisted Afghan troops in pushing back the Taliban during the night's multiple attacks in Ghazni.

The attack comes as pressure continues on the Taliban to enter peace talks with the Afghan government.

In May the Taliban attacked the western city of Farah.

Taliban leaders have ignored an offer by the government of direct peace negotiations.

But there are tentative signs that diplomatic efforts to kick-start talks are starting to bear fruit. The US and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces remain in Afghanistan mainly in a supporting and training role.

An unprecedented truce in June brought fighting between security forces and the Taliban to a temporary halt, giving war-weary Afghans some welcome relief from violence.

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