President Ashraf Ghani’s spokesman Haroon Chakhansuri said on Monday that the president held an emergency meeting on Sunday night and was briefed on the Ghazni situation by the provincial governor, military chiefs and the head of the provincial National Directorate of Security and Police.
Chakhansuri said Ghani has ordered more troops to be sent to Ghazni, which is in its fourth day under siege after hundreds of Taliban fighters launched an attack on the city in the early hours of Friday morning.
With cellphone lines mostly down in the city, there has been very little information coming out of Ghazni.
But on Monday reports trickled out of the city indicating that there is still a heavy presence of Taliban in some areas of the city and that clashes are ongoing.
Hundreds of families have also reportedly fled the city – many to Kabul, which is only about 140km from Ghazni city.
Residents said that government forces have taken back control of the Bala Hisar area in the city and that the “Taliban retreated from Moy-e-Mubarak area.”
Residents also said that PD5 in the city had fallen to the Taliban and that there is a heavy Taliban presence in Bakawol, Qala-e-Shahada and Naw Abad areas.
They also confirmed the Taliban had set fire to the IEC’s offices and said a government fuel station in the city was also torched by the insurgents.
According to them, Afghan National Army Commandos and Special Forces have been placed in Qala-e-Amir Mohammad Khan and Sark-e-Omomi area in the city.
However, there is no official confirmation on these reports but a source said on Monday that 100 army commandos have gone missing in the Ajristan district in the province overnight.
Government officials however repeatedly said on Sunday that no key facilities were under Taliban control in the province.
The US Forces Afghanistan said in a statement on Sunday that “the Afghan National Army strongly and swiftly reinforced Ghazni city after Afghan security thwarted Friday's Taliban attack. The city was relatively quiet Friday evening and people were observed moving freely on the streets.”
“Clearing operations are ongoing and sporadic clashes are occurring. What we are seeing as the clearing operations continue is the Taliban attempting to harass Afghan forces and using civilians, who they show little regards toward, as cover,” the statement said.
“In addition to the initial strike, close-air support and B-1 show of presence on Friday, US forces conducted five strikes yesterday (Saturday) and 10 thus far today (Sunday). The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces continue to hold their ground and maintain control of all government centers,” it said.
“Tactically, operationally and strategically, the Taliban achieved nothing with this failed attack except another eye-catching, but inconsequential headline. The fact remains that the Taliban are unable to seize terrain and unable to match the Afghan security forces or our enablement, retreating once directly and decisively engaged,” read the statement.
But on Sunday evening a convoy of military vehicles heading for Ghazni city came under attack in Sayad Abad district in Maidan Wardak.
The convoy was from Paktia province and had traveled through Logar province into Wardak when the incident happened.
The ambush happened about 80km from Ghazni city.
Paktia borders Ghazni but the direct route has been under Taliban control recently, said a source adding that the convoy was forced to take a long route – through Logar and Wardak provinces – in order to get to Ghazni.
The main highway through Ghazni, the Kabul-Kandahar highway – has also been closed to traffic by the Taliban for days – which has affected hundreds of motorists.
The Afghan National Army’s 203 Corps spokesman Maj. Mohammad Farooq also said: "The city is under the complete control of Afghan security forces. Afghan National Army reinforcements have made their way to Ghazni city to help the Afghan National Police search and clear the city of insurgents that may still be hiding in the city."
The Provincial Police Chief Farid Ahmad Mashal did tell TOLOnews on Sunday that foreign fighters, including Pakistanis and Chechens, are involved in the battle for Ghazni.
But he said clearance operations are underway and house-to-house searches are being conducted.
Taliban stormed Ghazni City – 148 kilometers southwest of Kabul – at around 1am Kabul time on Friday.
Insecurity recently increased dramatically in Ghazni province, which led to the Independent Election Commission delaying parliamentary elections in the province.