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Mattis: Taliban's Tactics Endanger Afghan Civilians

U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis receives military honors before his meeting with Brazil's defense minister, in Brasilia, Brazil, Aug. 13, 2018. Mattis has spent six days visiting South American countries, including Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Colombia.

The Taliban's use of civilian homes in Ghazni as fighting positions is forcing Afghan government forces to move slowly in expelling the insurgents in order to limit civilian casualties, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Tuesday.

Mattis told reporters during a visit to Brazil and Argentina that the fighting in Ghazni was continuing, five days after the Taliban overwhelmed defenses and pushed deep into the city, which is the capital of the province with the same name.

"It looks like many of the enemy have run, but some are in the town, in homes, fighting from inside homes,'' he said.

Asked whether the Taliban assault reflected any new capability on their part, Mattis said, "To me it's simply a continuation of their willingness to put innocent people in harm's way. There's nothing new. It's the usual: endangering civilians. That's part and parcel of what they've done the past 20 years.''

The United States has carried out airstrikes and sent military advisers to aid Afghan forces in the city.