Taliban launches attack in Afghanistan; U.S. forces respond

The Taliban launched an attack Friday on one of Afghanistan’s key cities, seizing buildings and exchanging fire with security forces during an air and ground battle that led to U.S. forces’ assistance.

Afghan security officials inspect the scene of a suicide bombing outside the Governor's office in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, in June. On Friday the city of Ghazni, a key artery connecting many Afghanistan provinces, was attacked by the Taliban, which led to U.S. forces assisting. Photo by Ghulamullah Habibi/EPA-EFE
Afghan security officials inspect the scene of a suicide bombing outside the Governor’s office in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, in June. On Friday the city of Ghazni, a key artery connecting many Afghanistan provinces, was attacked by the Taliban, which led to U.S. forces assisting. Photo by Ghulamullah Habibi/EPA-EFE

The heavily-armed militants stormed Ghazni, located south of the capital, Kabul. Ghazni is an important artery connecting the capital to the country’s southern and western provinces.

The attack on Afghan soldiers resulted in multiple casualties on both sides, Ghazni government spokesman Mohammad Arif Noori told CNN.

U.S. Forces Afghanistan spokesman Lt. Col. Martin O’Donnell said U.S. forces responded using attack helicopters and drones.

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A tweet by U.S. officials called the attack a “failed attempt” to seize territory.

“U.S. Forces responded with close-air support this morning in #Ghazni. Afghan forces held their ground and maintain control of all govt. centers. Another failed attempt by Taliban to seize terrain, while creating strategically inconsequential headlines,” the U.S. Forces Afghanistan tweet said.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said in a statement hundreds of fighters captured several strategic sites within the city and killed more than 140 Afghan soldiers.

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U.S. officials disputed the claim, saying there were “minimal Afghan security force casualties.”

A spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Defense, denied Ghazni was under any serious threat.

“It is just propaganda by the Taliban. The whole city is under the control of Afghan forces,” Brig. Gen. Mohammad Radmanish told The New York Times, adding that six Afghan soldiers had been killed in the fighting.

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The attack was the second on an Afghan city this year.

In May, Taliban forces launched a large-scale assault on the capital of Afghanistan’s western Farah province near the Iranian border. Taliban fighters forced the governor to flee and caused the collapse of multiple security compounds.

Farah is home to about 50,000 people and would be the second city to fall to the Taliban since the city of Kunduz fell twice in 2015 and 2016. Kunduz was subsequently retaken by the government both times.

BySusan McFarland