Air Force Fighters, Army Apaches Kill 220 Taliban in Ghazni Fight

A U.S. Special Operations soldier returns fire while conducting multi-day Afghan-led offensive operations against the Taliban in Mohammad Agha district, Logar Province, Afghanistan, July 28, 2018. (U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Nicholas Byers)
A U.S. Special Operations soldier returns fire while conducting multi-day Afghan-led offensive operations against the Taliban in Mohammad Agha district, Logar Province, Afghanistan, July 28, 2018. (U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Nicholas Byers)

U.S. Air Force fighters and Army helicopter gunships have attacked and killed more than 220 Taliban forces in Ghazni over the past several days after militants launched a massive attack on the Afghan city less than 100 miles from Kabul.

"Ghazni City remains under Afghan government control," Lt. Col. Martin O'Donnell, a spokesman for Operation Resolute Support and U.S. Forces Afghanistan, told Military.com on Tuesday.

Afghan forces are conducting clearing operations in the city, but hundreds of civilians have fled, trying to escape the fierce fighting, The Associated Press reported Tuesday.

"The Afghan National Army's 203rd Corps, the Afghan National Police's 303rd Zone and Afghan Special Security Forces are rooting out the remnants of the Taliban within the city," O'Donnell said. "What we observed, as these Afghan-led operations drove a large portion of Taliban from the city over the last day or so, was the retreating Taliban attacking the more vulnerable surrounding districts, which Afghan forces are reinforcing."

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid denied that insurgents had been driven from Ghazni and said the Taliban destroyed a telecommunications tower on the city's outskirts during the initial assault, cutting off landline and cellphone links to the city, the AP reported.

O'Donnell said the Taliban who remain in Ghazni "do not pose a threat to the city's collapse ... however, the Taliban who have hidden themselves amongst the Afghan populace do pose a threat to the civilian population, who were terrorized and harassed."

U.S. Special Forces and 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade advisers are providing advice to Afghan forces on how to effectively conduct clearance operations and combined-arms integration, he added.

"U.S. airpower has killed more than 220 Taliban since Aug. 10," O'Donnell said. "In addition to the initial strike on Friday, U.S. forces conducted five strikes Saturday, 16 strikes Sunday, 10 Monday and none thus far today."

AH-64 Apache helicopters from the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) Combat Aviation Brigade provided close-air support for Afghan forces on Friday, Sunday and Monday, he said, adding that Brig. Gen. Richard Johnson, deputy commander of the 101st and commander of Task Force South East, advised Afghan leaders in an operational command-and-control center.

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

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