Taliban seize key area between Kabul and Kandahar on major highway

Hundreds of Taliban attacked the Ajrestan District of Ghazni province a key link between the capital Kabul and southern areas. The Taliban have also been making advances in the south recently.

Some 700 Taliban are said to be involved in the battle which has lasted about a week already. Although fighting is still continuing, there have been over 100 killed and the Afghan forces have been pushed back giving the Taliban effective control over the area. The highway through the area links Kabul to the main southern city of Kandahar.
 Provincial officials say they have lost all contact with police in the area. NATO has attempted to allow the Afghan military to counter Taliban attacks of late with the result that the Taliban are making gains in the south and central areas of Afghanistan. Earlier, Taliban had attacked a government compound in the area containing intelligence and police offices killing at least 8 security personnel and losing 19 of their own fighters. Deputy police chief of the Ajrestan area Asadullah Safi said on Friday: "If there is no urgent help from the central government, the district will collapse". The authorities have lost contact with Safi. With no air cover to pin down the Taliban attackers the Taliban have launched many attacks against military posts. Provincial officials were able to contact an army unit late Friday. The unit reported that fighting was still raging and that Afghan army commandos from outside Ghazni province had arrived as reinforcement.
Ajrestan is a small town but surrounded by about 100 villages. Control of the mountainous Ajrestan district that is about 125 miles southwest of Kabul will provide the Taliban a base to launch attacks on two bordering provinces and along the crucial highway as well. Provincial governor Ahmadi said that he had asked repeatedly for helicopters to evacuate wounded security forces but to no avail.
 Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq, leader of the ethnic Hazara minority said: "Peace with the Taliban requires a strong government. At the moment, the Taliban think they can fight in every province and they believe they can overthrow the government, Without international support it will be hard to provide security ... The example of Ajrestan district shows that without international commitment of troops, it will be difficult to handle the Taliban."
 These attacks come just days before the new Afghan president Ashraf Ghani is to be inaugurated in a unity deal with his opponent Abdullah Abdullah. All foreign troops are set to withdraw by the end of 2014 but the new president has promised that he will sign on to a bilateral security agreement that will allow some troops to remain after that time. The control of the battle against the Taliban already seems to be mainly by the Afghan government. Afghan officials claim that the continuing loses by their forces show that a peace settlement must be negotiated with the Taliban since without a powerful NATO occupation force they will be unable to defeat the Taliban in battle.


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