KABUL – The Taliban continued on Sunday with their offensive to seize control of the strategic eastern Afghan city of Ghazni, the third day in a row on which their forces battled government troops supported by US airstrikes.
Communications with the city have been cut off, thus obscuring the situation, although at a press conference held in the capital, army chief of staff Sharif Yaftali said that the strategic areas of the city were still under government control.
However, he admitted that government troops are advancing only slowly as Taliban fighters are digging in among civilians’ houses and markets.
He revealed that 20 airstrikes were carried out on Taliban positions on Sunday, causing an unknown number of causalities among the insurgents, who have been receiving backup from around the country.
On the first day of the offensive, at least 150 Taliban fighters and 10 government troops were killed, according to Yaftali.
The Taliban, meanwhile, claimed in a statement that they have gained control of most of the city.
The offensive has been pursued with the aim of expelling government forces from the last areas in the city, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement.
This has been the worst Taliban offensive on a provincial capital since the brief occupation of the western city of Farah in May.
In 2015, the Taliban seized for several days the northern city of Kunduz, its greatest military achievement since the US invasion in 2001.
In 2016, the Taliban surrounded and managed to enter Trinkot, the capital of Uruzgan province, and Lashkargah – the capital of Helmand – but in both cases they were able to maintain control for only a few days.
According to information released last year by the US, the Afghan government controls about 56 percent of the country and the Taliban 11 percent, while the rest of the territory is under dispute.