U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has said Taliban fighters in Afghanistan are trying to "up the ante" ahead of an expected cease-fire offer from the Afghan government and elections scheduled for October.
Mattis, speaking on August 16 during a visit to Colombia, said Taliban militants had failed to achieve any of their "six objectives" in recent attacks against the strategic city of Ghazni.
"It’s been principally an information operation to grab a lot of press attention," Mattis said. "They’ve been successful [at that]."
Mattis said the situation in Ghazni has become "much more stable" since most Taliban fighters withdrew to the outskirts of the city. But he said some Taliban fighters remain in Ghazni and are "trying to get resupplied."
"They have not endeared themselves, obviously, to the population of Ghazni," Mattis said. "They use terror. They use bombs because they can’t win with ballots."
The Taliban assault on Ghazni, about 120 kilometers southwest of Kabul, began on August 10. Afghan officials say more than 100 Afghan security forces and about 30 civilians were killed in five days of fighting, along with dozens of Taliban militants.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani traveled to Ghazni by helicopter on August 17, where he met with local security officials and tribal elders.
With about 270,000 residents, Ghazni is Afghanistan’s seventh-largest city.
The International Committee of the Red Crescent says it is organizing the delivery of emergency water supplies for about 18,000 people because the city’s water system shut down when the recent fighting began.
Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, and dpa
Source: Radio Free Europe