SAWT BEIRUT INTERNATIONAL

| 4 August 2021, Wednesday |

Taliban surround central Afghan city of Ghazni, officials report

Officials claimed on Monday that Taliban fighters have surrounded the city of Ghazni in central Afghanistan, taking over civilian homes to resist security forces. Ghazni is the terrorists’ latest target.

The assault was the Taliban’s latest on a provincial capital, as the group redoubles its efforts to encircle cities and acquire territory, emboldened by the withdrawal of Western soldiers.

“The situation in Ghazni city is quite critical…the Taliban utilize civilian residences as hideouts and fire upon the ANDSF (Afghan Security Forces),” said Hassan Rezayi, a member of Ghazni’s provincial council.

Violence has surged in the country since U.S. President Joe Biden announced in April that American troops would withdraw by Sept. 11, ending 20 years in Afghanistan.

The U.S. general leading the war in Afghanistan, Austin Miller, is to relinquish command on Monday, in a symbolic end to America’s longest conflict.

Peace talks between the Taliban and the government have nominally been continuing in Qatar’s capital but officials say they are making little progress.

Clashes between the two sides are also continuing in the southern province of Kandahar where the Taliban traditionally have had a strong presence, locals said. Ghazni is on the main road between Kabul and Kandahar city.

“Since the past four days, armed Taliban are attacking…Kandahar city from the western direction,” said Hamidzai Lalay, a former Member of Parliament who is fighting with armed men against the Taliban in Kandahar. “Afghan security forces, including special forces, are fighting the Taliban and trying to push them back.”

Fawad Aman, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said the situation in Kandahar was “completely under control of ANDSF” which had carried out air and ground operations in recent days.

Although the Taliban have yet to seize provincial capitals, they have put pressure on Afghan security forces to respond to offensives around the nation.

On Sunday, security troops repelled a Taliban attack on Taluqan, the provincial capital of a crucial northern province bordering Tajikistan, with the support of air strikes.

Last week, Taliban insurgents stormed Badghis’ city, seizing police and security buildings and attempted to take over the governor’s office before being forced out by special forces.