US launches airstrikes as Taliban attack Afghan city

Afghan security personnel secure a road as smoke billows from the site of suicide attack as an ongoing attack between Afghan security force and suicide attackers in Jalalabad on July 31, 2018. (File photo: AFP)
Updated 10 August 2018
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US launches airstrikes as Taliban attack Afghan city

  • Intense gunbattles raged Friday morning and several shops had burned
  • US forces launched airstrikes to counter the assault on an Afghan provincial capital

KABUL: US forces launched airstrikes Friday to counter a major Taliban assault on an Afghan provincial capital, where terrified residents cowered in their homes amid explosions and gunfire as security forces try to beat the insurgents back.
Officials said Afghan special forces were also being deployed to the southeastern city of Ghazni after the latest attempt by the Taliban to capture an urban centre, with the assault coming as pressure builds on the insurgents to enter peace talks.
At least one Afghan soldier has been killed and seven others wounded in the fighting, provincial governor spokesman Arif Noori said.
Civilian houses and army checkpoints have come under mortar attack and the bodies of dozens of Taliban fighters are in the streets, he added.
The Taliban began the attack late Thursday from several positions around the city, provincial police chief Farid Ahmad Mashal said.
Residents who spoke to AFP said power has been cut to the area since fighting erupted, with heavy gunfire ringing out across the city and a government building set on fire.
"We are scared for our life. The Taliban are roaming everywhere in and around the city," shopkeeper Mohammad Haleem told AFP.
Another resident, Yasan, said the Taliban were using loudspeakers at the mosque to warn residents to stay in their homes.
"Heavy explosions and gunfire can be heard. We are terrified," Yasan wrote in a Facebook post.
The US said that the city remained under government control.
"U.S. Forces responded with close-air support this morning in #Ghazni," the official account for US Forces in Afghanistan tweeted Friday.
"Afghan forces held their ground and maintain control of all govt. centers. Another failed attempt by Taliban to seize terrain, while creating strategically inconsequential headlines," it continued.
A spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani said the Taliban had suffered heavy casualties in the onslaught and confirmed the airstrikes.
"Commando forces are on their way, and black hawks are hitting important enemy targets," wrote Shahhussain Murtazawi in a post on social media.
Police special forces have also been deployed to help block the Taliban advance on the city, an Afghan security official said.
The Taliban issued a statement claiming to have captured "most of the government buildings inside the city".
"So far 140 enemy forces have been killed or wounded," the group said.
The Taliban frequently exaggerate their battlefield gains and downplay losses incurred during fighting.


Pompeo pledges close cooperation with India but trade, defense issues unresolved

Updated 26 June 2019
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Pompeo pledges close cooperation with India but trade, defense issues unresolved

  • But US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave few specifics of how they would overcome disputes on issues
  • The disputes have led to higher trade tariffs by the two countries and created unease over the depth of their security alliance

NEW DELHI: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sought to reduce heightened trade tension with India on Wednesday, promising a renewed focus on negotiating improved trade and investment ties between the two nations.
But Pompeo, on a visit to India, gave few specifics of how they would overcome disputes on issues ranging from access to Indian markets for leading American companies to New Delhi’s demands for foreign firms to store Indian data in the country, and exports of steel and aluminum to the United States.
The two nations are “friends who can help each other all around the world,” Pompeo told a joint news conference with Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar after they met.
The current differences were expressed “in the spirit of friendship,” he added.
The disputes have led to higher trade tariffs by the two countries and created unease over the depth of their security alliance.
In particular, the sudden introduction of new e-commerce rules for foreign investors in February angered the Americans because it showed New Delhi was prepared to move the goalposts to hurt two of the largest US companies, discount retailer Walmart, and Amazon.com Inc.
Walmart last year invested $16 billion to buy control of Indian e-commerce firm Flipkart.
Just days before Pompeo’s visit, India slapped higher retaliatory tariffs on 28 US products following Washington’s withdrawal of key trade privileges for New Delhi.
Jaishankar, a former Indian ambassador to the United States, played down the spat on Wednesday.
“If you trade with someone and they are your biggest trading partner, it is impossible you don’t have trade issues,” he said.
India’s ties with Russia and Iran, both now subject to US sanctions, are also a sore point.
US pressure has led India to stop buying oil from Iran, a top energy supplier. The United States has also stepped up pressure on India not to proceed with its purchase of S-400 surface-to-air missile systems from Russia.
The missile deal and Iranian oil were both discussed during their meeting, Jaishankar and Pompeo said, but mentioned no resolution of either at the news conference.
Earlier, Pompeo met Prime Minister Narendra Modi for talks at his official residence in the capital, New Delhi, and they exchanged handshakes in images broadcast on television.
“The Prime Minister expressed his strong commitment to achieve the full potential of bilateral relations in trade and economy, energy, defense, counterterrorism and people-to-people contacts,” the foreign ministry said in a statement, without elaborating.
Pompeo is expected to round off the trip with a policy speech hosted by the US embassy, before departing on Thursday for a summit of leaders of the Group of 20 nations in Japan.