Afghan Taliban delegation visits Uzbekistan to discuss peace, security

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

An Afghan official says security forces are battling the Taliban for the third straight day after the insurgents' massive attack into the key city of Ghazni.

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

Mohammad Sharif Yaftali, Afghan army chief of staff, said the city was not under threat of collapse and heavy fighting was underway to push back the Taliban from city limits.

Politicians from Ghazni who managed to talk to some residents said on Sunday that the Taliban were in control of much of the city after launching an initial attack in the early hours of Friday.

According to the US military headquarters in Kabul, US aircraft conducted at least four air raids on Sunday and five more on Saturday, but details of the fighting were unclear as most of the city's telecoms masts were destroyed in recent fighting over recent.

Similar incidents involving armed attacks and clashes between the Afghan forces and the Taliban militants have been reported during the recent weeks as well. Insurgent forces were said to have mined and set up checkpoints on the nearby highway, which links Kabul with the southern tribal region that is the Taliban's home turf.

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US military headquarters in Kabul said sporadic clashes were occurring and American aircraft had conducted five strikes on Saturday and four more on Sunday.

A senior Taliban official said the movement had established a political office in the Uzbek capital Tashkent aimed at developing better ties and showing that they did not intend to support local militant groups. Lt. Col. Martin O'Donnell said in a statement that Afghan troops had "strongly and swiftly reinforced" the city and "continue to hold their ground and maintain control of all government centers" while clearing operations continued. Officials had hoped for a second truce later this month during the Eid al-Adha holiday, but that seems unlikely.

While little firsthand information was available from the city Sunday and most cellphone communication was cut off, social media showed videos of badly burned and damaged buildings.

"Today we are glad that a large group of our unhappy brothers who fought against the government stopped the war and handed their weapons to government and joined the peace process and by them joining the peace process the security of Badghis will improve", said Qaim.

Local lawmaker Chaman Shah Ehtemadi told Reuters news agency: "Only the governor's office, police headquarters and intelligence agency's compound are in the hands of the government and Taliban are pushing to take them".

Some residents fled toward Kabul by traversing rural areas.

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