Taliban ‘at its strongest since 2001’ as it batters Afghan forces in strategic city of Ghazni
Around 100 Afghan troops were killed in fighting with Taliban over the strategic town of Ghazni. The group will be making new gains if the US keeps relying on force alone in Afghanistan, geopolitical analyst Ali Rizk told RT.
For the last four days, the Taliban has been clashing with government forces for control of the Ghazni Province and its main city, located just 150 kilometers away from Afghanistan's capital, Kabul.
Despite the Afghan troops being supported by US airstrikes and ground forces, events on the battlefield haven't been in their favor. On Monday, the Taliban already had most of the city in its grasp, with the military only holding government buildings and police headquarters, which have been under constant attack, the Washington Post reported.
"About 100 security forces" members and up to 30 civilians have been killed during the brutal battle, Afghan Defense Minister Tariq Shah Bahrami said.
Foreign diplomats in Kabul said the government was taken by surprise by the brazen attack and it took 72 hours before President Ashraf Ghani announced that reinforcements would be sent to the city urgently, according to Reuters.
Kabul-based journalist Sultan Faizy told RT that "the situation is really harsh and the hospitals are full of dead bodies and wounded. People are really scared, highways have been blocked since four days, communication lines are down."
Information coming from the city is scarce as Afghan journalists have been unable to reach city officials by phone, he added.
Faizy also said the Taliban seized food from government-owned stores and distributed it among those in need, in an attempt to gain popular support.
Taliban has been in control of half of the Afghan territory, according to a report in May from the Special Investigator General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). The government controlled only 229 of Afghanistan's 407 districts, while the rest were either in the hands of militants or contested.
The assault on Ghazni has been the group's largest military operation since the Taliban offered the authorities a surprise three-day truce during Ramadan festivities in June.
The Taliban would keep winning in Afghanistan if the US "continues with its focus on just military force" in dealing with a group it has been unable to defeat for the last 17 years, writer and regional analyst Ali Rizk told RT.
"The so-called war on terror, which was launched after the 9/11 attacks, has turned out to be an utter failure. Taliban now is in a stronger position than it ever was since it was ousted from power in 2001," he said.
By pushing through with the military solution, Washington has been pursuing a "wrong strategy," the analyst said. "On the contrary, the US involvement up until now has led to the growth of terrorism instead of leading to its curbing. That's clear from what we see in Afghanistan."
"If the US continues to pursue the same strategy, advocated by the generals… then Taliban would just make more advances in Afghanistan," Rizk warned.
The US did agree to talk with the Taliban face-to-face after the group said that no peace negotiations with the Afghan government were possible without discussing the withdrawal of US troops with Washington.
High-ranking Taliban officials told the Guardian on Monday that the meeting with senior US State Department official Alice Wells in Qatar on July 23 was "very helpful" and could eventually pave the way for Taliban sitting down with the Afghan leadership.
"The real terrorist threat is Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), which has launched all these attacks, whether it be in Syria, in Iraq and even in Europe," Ali Rizk told RT. "Taliban's main focus is within Afghanistan, seizing power within the country," he added.
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