Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Tuesday, July 16th, 2019

Afghan Forces Regaining Control of Much of Besieged City

Afghan Forces Regaining  Control of Much of Besieged City

GHAZNI - After five days of fighting, Ghazni, a strategically vital center two hours from Kabul on the main highway between the capital and southern Afghanistan was a city of burned-out buildings and vehicles with bodies lying in the streets.
Local officials had been warning for months that the Taliban’s growing control over surrounding districts had left Ghazni vulnerable to attack and President Ashraf Ghani faced bitter accusations over the failure to protect the city.
The government has faced accusations of incompetence, neglect and complacency, as well as anger at its repeated assurances that the Taliban attack had failed, even while hundreds of fighters were roaming at will through the city.
“The government knew about Ghazni very long ago and did little to protect it. “All we heard from officials were lies and deceit and the people know this,” said Etemadi, who added that fighting was still going on.
The assault, which shocked the country, raises fresh questions over parliamentary elections scheduled for Oct. 20 as well as over hopes for peace talks with the Taliban, which had grown following a three-day truce in June.
A senior Taliban official said the attack on a strategic city so close to the capital was intended as a demonstration that the insurgents held the upper hand on the battlefield, which would strengthen their position in talks.“We wanted to convey a message to the Americans, their allies and the puppet government in Afghanistan that if we want, we can target them anytime and anywhere,” he said.
Hundreds of people have been killed and wounded in the fighting, some of the heaviest seen in Afghanistan since the Taliban seized the northern city of Kunduz in 2015.
Government officials said nearly 100 members of the security forces have been killed while the U.S. military said it had carried out more than 30 air strikes that had killed more than 220 Taliban since Friday.
There have been no reliable estimates of civilian casualties but the city’s hospitals have been overwhelmed.
“Bodies of Taliban fighters and police can be seen in the streets. I saw two bodies that were eaten by dogs,” said Abdul Hakim Sulaimankhel, 37, who owns an auto parts shop in Ghazni.
He said shops and a big carpet market had been burned out and a neighbor’s granddaughter had died of illness because her family could not take her to hospital.
“There is no bread and shops have all been destroyed. It will take months for it all to be rebuilt,” he said. (Reuters)