16:06 GMT26 February 2021
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    Afghan Security Forces (ASF) were stretched thin in the past three days of fighting in the country, which saw surprise attacks in northern and central provinces.

    Taliban forces overran an army base in the Ghormach district of the Faryab province, killing some 17 soldiers, according to a Defense Ministry spokesperson, and capturing 40, according to a local MP cited by Channel News Asia.

    Faryab's head of provincial council, Tahir Rehmani, said soldiers at the base begged Kabul for air support and reinforcements, but authorities were "too busy with Ghazni." 

    The Taliban led an onslaught into the city in Ghazni, killing some 100 ASF soldiers and about 20 civilians in three days, the Defense Ministry said Monday. Afghan forces, with US and NATO "advisers," said they retook control of the center of the province which contains much of the highway between the government capital of Kabul and the country's second largest city, Kandahar.

    It "effectively [serves] as a gateway between the capital and militant strongholds in the south," Channel News Asia reported.

    While the Taliban is said to have lost control of the city, pockets of Taliban fighters remain, and militants have flooded the rural areas surrounding the city in that province.

    Resolute Support, the US and NATO mission in Afghanistan, tweeted on Monday that Ghazni city "remains under Afghan control," and that US aerial assaults have killed more than 140 Taliban fighters.

    Taliban forces have not captured a major district center since the city of Kunduz in 2016, and experts believe the renewed push to do so may be linked to the Islamist group's quest for leverage in the event peace talks are held with the Americans, a possibility US President Donald Trump has floated. 

    According to a May 1 US military report, the Taliban controls, influences or contests 43.7 percent of the country.

    But some analysts take issue with the metrics. For example, some areas listed as under control of the government are only actually only occupied by government forces in small portions or centers, while the countryside remains the domain of the Taliban. In Ghanzi, before the recent incursion, the governor was only able to travel safely from one government building to another in armored convoys, Bill Roggio, a senior fellow at the neoconservative Foundation for Defense of Democracies and editor of the think tank's Afghanistan-focused Long War Journal, told The Washington Times in early August.

    Meanwhile, one Afghan general, Laal Jan Zaheer, said that 77,000 Taliban fighters are in the country, an apparent surge in the group's strength.

    In an effort put an end to the 17-year-old conflict, the US has been bombing the country at a rate that is unprecedented since the US military started publishing data on its aerial campaigns in 2009.


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