Brazen Taliban Attack Raises Pressure on Afghan Forces

Taliban fighters storm Afghanistan's Ghazni seize parts of city

Afghanistan: dozens dead as Taliban attack Ghazni, officials say

While pressure has been building for peace talks between the Western-backed government in Kabul and the Taliban insurgency, U.S. officials say Islamic State's branch in Afghanistan is not part of any reconciliation push and instead must be wiped out.

Smoke rising into the air after Taliban militants launched an attack on the Afghan provincial capital of Ghazni on August 10, 2018.

Capturing Ghazni even briefly would symbolically cut Afghanistan's second city of Kandahar off from the country's capital.

At least eight civilians and seven government security personnel were injured, provincial government spokesman Mohammad Arif Noori Ghazni told the BBC.

Lt. Col. Martin O'Donnell, a spokesman for USA forces in Afghanistan, said American forces and US attack helicopters assisted Afghan troops in pushing back the Taliban during the night's multiple attacks in Ghazni. Still, the Afghan forces were engaged in house-to house battles in some residential areas to root out the remnants of the Taliban's attack force. "The Taliban are roaming everywhere in and around the city", shopkeeper Mohammad Haleem said hours after the assault began.

Taliban fighters stormed a provincial capital in Afghanistan before dawn on Friday, exchanging fire with security forces and reportedly leaving several dead.

Ghazni Police Chief Farid Ahmad Mashal said that the skirmishes were reported in Khogyani, Khwaja Omari, and Zanakhan areas- all of them situated on Ghazni's outskirts.

"US Forces responded with close-air support this morning in #Ghazni", the official account for US Forces in Afghanistan tweeted on Friday.

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In a statement, the MoD said so far as many as 150 Taliban attackers had suffered casualties in the Ghazni clashes.

Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, asserted that 46 Afghan soldiers died in the clashes at the base and a number of checkpoints and "not killed in Taliban detention centers".

The US disputed that figure, saying initial reports indicated there were "minimal Afghan security force casualties".

The US said that the city remained under government control.

The Taliban have so far failed to take and hold any provincial centre since they overran the northern city of Kunduz in 2015 before being driven off with the support of US air strikes and Special Forces units.

Anticipation has also been mounting about the possibility of a government ceasefire announcement for the Islamic holiday of Eid-al Adha later this month.

At least six civilians were killed or wounded in a rocket attack by the Taliban militants in central Logar province of Afghanistan. USA and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces remain in Afghanistan mainly in a supporting and training role in the 17-year-old war.

It has so far ignored President Ashraf Ghani's offer of unconditional peace negotiations.

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