Afghan minister of defense Tariq Shah Bahrami and minister of interior Wais Ahmad Barmak on Monday held a press conference on the Ghazni situation – stating at least 70 police soldiers alone had been killed in the past four days.
The defense minister also stated that Pakistani, Chechen and Arab fighters had been fighting alongside the Taliban who launched their attack on Ghazni city in the early hours of Friday morning.
On the death toll, Bahrami said that 194 insurgents had so far been killed. He also noted that at least 20 civilians had also been killed as a result of the fighting.
He said and an extra 1,000 troops have been sent to Ghazni city to fully bring the situation under control.
Bahrami acknowledged that there had been some shortcomings from a security point of view but that they soon mobilized troops from neighboring provinces to help repel the insurgents.
“Security forces were mobilized from surrounding provinces to help repel the Taliban attack on Ghazni. Senior officials are in Ghazni including the army chief of staff. Afghanistan,” said Bahrami.
According to him, 50 commandos reported missing earlier in the day had been accounted for. He said by mid-afternoon, 35 had withdrawn to neighboring Daikundi province and the rest were on their way.
He said Ghazni will see a major turnaround for the better within the next 24 hours.
Interior Minister Wais Barmak meanwhile said security forces have started recovering the bodies of fallen soldiers in Ghazni
Barmak rejected all claims made by the Taliban that the group had taken control of key government facilities and said everything was under the control of government.
According to him, the chief of army staff, an MoI deputy and an NDS deputy are leading the operation. He reiterated that Ghazni was completely under government control.
Barmak said the situation has changed (for the better) and everything in the city is under government control - including the prison. He said operations were slow, so as to prevent civilian casualties.
According to Barmak, government is working hard to get humanitarian aid into the city but says insurgents are using residents as human shields and that they are hiding in civilian homes and in mosques.
Barmak said that an estimated 70 police soldiers have been killed in the past four days in Ghazni.
UN Paints Grim Picture Of Ghazni Situation
This comes only a few hours after the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Afghanistan said they had received reports of a number of civilian casualties in the ongoing battle in Ghazni city.
According to the statement: “Residents of Ghazni City have seen their city turn into a battlefield since Friday morning, with fighting and clashes reportedly still ongoing.
“We have received initial reports of a number of civilian casualties and of people trying to reach safe areas outside of the city,” said Rik Peeperkorn, acting Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan.
He also said: “Medication at the main hospital is reportedly becoming scarce and people are unable to safely bring casualties for treatment. Main access roads both north and south of the city to larger cities where medical facilities are available are contested and unsafe for people to travel.”
“According to sporadic reports from within the city, many families have reportedly taken shelter in their houses and are unable to leave their homes. Vital telecommunications net-works and the electricity supply are down in the city of 270,000 people which has impacted on the water supply, and food is also reportedly running low.
Afghan security officials however said that Afghanistan is currently facing over 20 terrorist groups and that the presence of this huge of number of terrorists has been creating serious challenges to the Afghan security forces.
Ghani Orders More Troops To Ghazni
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.
Insecurity recently increased dramatically in Ghazni province, which led to the Independent Election Commission delaying parliamentary elections in the province.
The multi-pronged attack by the Taliban on Ghazni began on Friday, with insurgents infiltrating people's homes and slipping out into the night to attack Afghan security forces is a new show of force by the resurgent group to take over the provincial centers.
This comes after US and Afghan forces in the past have constantly said that the Taliban are not having the military capability to take over provincial capitals.
Attack on Ghazni Shows Nicholson’s Calculation was wrong
In March 2018, General John Nicholson, the commander of US forces in Afghanistan said that this year the Taliban will not focus on taking over major towns but instead the group will increase their suicide attacks to prove their strong presence.
He claimed that the Taliban leaders in Quetta have decided that their fighters should no longer fight to takeover over big cities but instead carry out more suicide attacks to prove their strong presence in the country.
According to Nicholson, the Taliban’s change of tactics shows that the pressure mounted on the group by the Afghan government and the international coalition has been effective as it has decreased their levels of motivation.
“To avoid major comeback but to prove their relevance by attacking isolated check points, by conducting high profile attacks, by attempting assassinations and so, what this represents is a lowering of their military ambition,” said Nicholson.