Afghan President visits violence-hit Ghazni city

Kabul: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani visited Ghazni city on Friday to assess the security situation following a Taliban offensive to capture the city last week.

Last Friday, hundreds of Taliban fighters had launched an attack on Ghazni, the capital of the Ghazni province, leading to five days of clashes between the rebels and the security forces that killed nearly 500 people, including 326 Taliban fighters, and over one hundred members of the security forces.

“President Ashraf Ghani arrived in Ghazni province to visit and evaluate the security situation of Ghazni,” the presidential palace said in a statement.

Ghani visited different parts of Ghazni city and talked to citizens and officials and allocated $20 million as an emergency fund for the reconstruction of government buildings and mosques destroyed in the offensive, Efe news reported.

Ghazni Governor Wahidullah Kalimzai briefed the President about the state of public services, including the water distribution system, electricity and telecommunications that were restored but needed more work to make them fully functional.

A week into the offensive, however, Afghan forces were still busy clearing areas around the city and along the highway in the province, where rebels were still fighting with the security forces.

“The clearance operation is ongoing according to the plan in Ghazni. (…) the security belt around Ghazni is reinforced and strengthened,” Army Chief General Sharif Yaftali said.

Ghani also ordered the country’s intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security, to probe the attack and boost security in the area.

He also criticized neighbouring Pakistan for not taking action to prevent Taliban activities on its soil.

“Dear General Bajwa! (Pakistani Army Chief) You signed document with us, you repeatedly told me on phone… you will pay special attention (to the Taliban activities on Pakistani soil). Give me answer, from where they came (militants who attacked Ghazni)? Why they are getting treatment in your hospitals?” Ghani said.

This has been the worst Taliban offensive on a provincial capital since the brief occupation of the western city of Farah in May.

In 2015, the Taliban had seized the northern city of Kunduz for several days, in what was its greatest military achievement since the US invasion in 2001.

In 2016, the Taliban surrounded and managed to enter Trinkot, capital of the Uruzgan province and Lashkargah, capital of Helmand, but retreated after a few days.

According to the US, the Afghan government controls about 56 per cent of the country and the Taliban 11 per cent, while the rest of the territory is under dispute.