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Taliban overrun Afghan army base, kill 17 troops

16 August 2018

At least 100 Afghan security forces have been killed as troops backed by USA airpower struggled to push the Taliban from embattled Ghazni city, officials said Monday, while residents reported food and medicine shortages four days after fighting began.

The Taliban had besieged the base, which housed about 140 Afghan troops, for three days before the attack late Monday, said the local provincial council chief, Mohammad Tahir Rahmani.

"It is a tragedy that the base fell to the enemy", Rezaee said. They said the rest have either been killed or fled to nearby mountains during the clashes.

"What we observed as these Afghan-led operations drove a large portion of Taliban from the city over the last day or so, was the retreating Taliban attacking the more vulnerable surrounding districts, which Afghan forces are reinforcing".

The spokesman for the Defense Ministry in Kabul says the Taliban have overrun a military base in northern Afghanistan, killing 17 soldiers and wounding at least 19 troops. Officials say the Afghan National Army (ANA) base was lost after soldiers failed to receive reinforcements and air support, and ran out of ammunition and other supplies.

Around 100 Afghan troops were killed in fighting with Taliban over the strategic town of Ghazni.

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.

The violence has shattered faint hope for moves towards a peace process generated by an unprecedented three-day truce during the Eid Al Fitr holiday in June, and a Taliban report late last month of a meeting between a senior U.S. diplomat and Taliban representatives in Doha.

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The assault, which the Taliban launched late Thursday, comes as the insurgents are under increasing pressure to join peace talks and highlights the difficulty of repelling their repeated attacks on urban centres crowded with civilians, with residents among the dead.

In addition to Ghazni's importance for the central government, its namesake province in eastern Afghanistan has always been considered a stronghold of the Taliban, as it straddles the group's supply routes to and from Pakistan.

Afghan-based political analyst Haroun Mir said generals in the field have also been hobbled by Kabul, citing Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's reputation for micromanagement as a hindrance.

Afghan authorities have insisted that the city would not fall to the Taliban and that Afghan forces remained in control of key government positions and other institutions there.

Hostilities in Ghazni have disrupted telecommunication services, making it almost impossible to verify conflicting claims about the fighting.

"Ghazni is a ghost city now".

US-led forces in Afghanistan have been offering regular statements, but downplayed the fighting, branding it a "failure" by the Taliban to take the city.

Mohammed Salim, 32, a government worker in Ghazni who fled to another location, said in a cellphone interview Tuesday that he was violently awakened by explosions and gunfire when the attack began early Friday.

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"I went to the hospital, but it was full of dead bodies with a very bad smell", he said.

Now, the intentions of Taliban leaders, some of whom were said to have been taken aback by their fighters' sudden enthusiasm for mingling with civilians, seem much less clear.

'The city is full of smoke. Ghazni residents have been trapped in their homes over recent days, many unable to get food, medicine or even to draw water from wells.

"So far the fighting has reportedly resulted in 110 to 150 civilian casualties".

Bombs placed along the road leading north and south from the city also "prevented civilians from safely fleeing the violence", said a United Nations report.

On Monday the Afghan defence minister said at least 100 security forces had been killed in the fighting so far, and "20-30" civilians.

The fall of the base - known as Camp Chenaya - in the Ghormach district of volatile Faryab province, came with security forces already stretched by the days of fighting in Ghazni, a strategic provincial capital two hours from Kabul.

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Taliban overrun Afghan army base, kill 17 troops