Afghanistan: Taliban resume deadly assaults in Ghazni

Heavy fighting in Ghazni as Afghan forces battle Taliban

Taliban fighters attacked police headquarters and other government buildings in Ghazni in central Afghanistan on Sunday, killing dozens of soldiers and police and threatening to seize control of the city, officials and residents said.

Gen. Sharif Yaftali, army chief of staff, says all strategic and government offices in Ghazni are still under government control.

Military officials have confirmed that a large number of Taliban fighters had been hiding in civilian homes in the city ahead of the initial attack on Thursday night.

The U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation formally concluded their combat mission in Afghanistan at the end of 2014, but have since then repeatedly come to the aid of Afghan forces as they struggle to combat the resurgent Taliban.

On the first day of the offensive, at least 150 Taliban fighters and 10 government troops were killed, according to Yaftali.

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Radmanish told The Associated Press the Taliban were driven to an area known as Hasanabad about 500 meters (yards) outside the city.

The main highway through Ghazni, the Kabul-Kandahar highway - has also been closed to traffic by the Taliban for days - which has affected hundreds of motorists.

The battle extended into the day, and USA forces eventually sent air support to bolster Afghan security forces - this meant close air support (attack helicopters) and one drone strike.

Most of the telecommunication towers in the city have been blown up making communications hard.

The Apaches departed in the morning but returned soon afterwards, providing close-air support for Afghan forces in the mid-afternoon, U.S. Forces-Afghanistan spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Martin L. O'Donnell told The Defense Post on Saturday.

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After repulsing the daring assault, police conducted house-to-house searches for any remaining Taliban fighters. "Whichever side controls Ghazni, [it] can control the neighbouring provinces of Paktika and Zabul as well", he said.

The Taliban said in a separate statement they discussed the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan, peace and "future national projects such as security for railroad and power lines".

A convoy of military vehicles heading for Ghazni city came under attack in Sayad Abad district in Maidan Wardak at about 5.30pm local time on Sunday. The government had been considering a ceasefire for the upcoming Eid al Adha holiday, similar to a truce in June over the Eid al Fitr holiday.

Still, Andrew Wilder, vice president of Asia programs at the U.S. Institute of Peace said Washington would welcome a "constructive" Russian role in finding a way toward a peace pact in Afghanistan.

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

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"His most likely move would be to revert to his earlier preference to more or less pull out of Afghanistan, leaving only a bare-bones counterterror presence, possibly secured by contractors", Markey added.

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