Taliban capture northern base from Afghan army

Ghazni attack: 70 policemen killed in Afghanistan's provincial capital

The capture of Camp Chenaya comes as Afghan security forces, with the help of USA airstrikes and military advisors, regained control of the southeastern strategic city of Ghazni following days of deadly fighting with the Taliban.

The clashes started last Saturday after hundreds of Taliban militants stormed and besieged Camp-e-Chenayeeha base in remote Ghormach district of Faryab province in which about 106 Army soldiers were stationed, Xinhua news agency reported.

"It is a tragedy that the base fell to the enemy".

Ghazni residents who arrived in Kabul after fleeing the violence told AFP that the dead bodies of militants and soldiers continued to litter the streets, while government offices have been set ablaze by Taliban fighters and food prices are rising.

The US did agree to talk with the Taliban face-to-face after the group said that no peace negotiations with the Afghan government were possible without discussing the withdrawal of US troops with Washington. 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.

While Afghan security forces are conducting most of the fighting against the Taliban and other insurgent groups, U.S. troops operate alongside them in a training capacity and are frequently on the front lines.

Afghan security forces, beset by killings, desertions and under intense pressure, have been struggling to beat back insurgents since US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organisation troops ended their combat mission in December 2014.

The assault on Ghazni has been the group's largest military operation since the Taliban offered the authorities a surprise three-day truce during Ramadan festivities in June.

"If Ghazni, Afghanistan's second largest city, located strategically on Kabul -Kandahar Highway, were indeed to fall to the Taliban, it would send already plummeting Afghan forces" morale into an irreversible tailspin, threaten neighbouring Pakhtia and Zabul, and even impact the October 20 elections.

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.

The fighting has brought civilian life to a standstill, with most residents sheltering indoors.

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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.

But in others "the Taliban have positioned their fighters in high buildings shooting at security forces from there", he added.

Communication networks remained largely down, making any information hard to verify.

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.

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

'Those who can are fleeing'. I saw two bodies that were eaten by dogs", said Abdul Hakim Sulaimankhel, 37, who owns an automobile spare parts shop in Ghazni.

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.

'The city is full of smoke.

Reports the Taliban are hiding in residents´ homes and marketplaces "heightened the risk of civilian casualties arising from any military aerial response", the United Nations warned.

The large-scale, multi-directional, Taliban attack on Ghazni early on Friday morning which achieved complete surprise should effectively clear the remaining "blitzkrieg" cobwebs clouding the American military's perspective in the 17-year conflict, and accelerate the drive towards the more realistic goal of negotiating meaningful peace talks in all seriousness.

According to O'Donnel, in terms of Resolute Support assistance to the Afghan-led clearance operation, Task Force-Southeast, US Special Forces and 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade advisors are providing advice on things such as clearance operations and combined-arms integration.

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