ABOARD US MILITARY AIRCRAFT - Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has predicted more violent attacks from Taliban fighters in Afghanistan after insurgents failed to seize any of their objectives during a recent attack on Ghazni, the country’s second-most populated city.
Speaking to reporters aboard a U.S. aircraft Thursday, Mattis said the Taliban had targeted six locations during the assault but did not take them from the Afghan Armed Forces.
Attack a week ago
Taliban fighters launched the attack last Friday and managed to make their way to the city center before being beaten back in the days that followed.
Fighting in densely populated areas caused as many as 150 civilian deaths, along with the deaths of hundreds of Taliban fighters and security personnel, according to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.
Mattis called the assault a deadly ploy to “grab a lot of press attention” and warned the Taliban would likely continue “murdering innocent people” ahead of a proposed cease-fire and the upcoming Afghan elections.
“They use terror, they use bombs, because they can’t win with ballots right now,” he said.
Some Taliban fighters are hiding out in houses in Ghazni while clearance operations continue, Mattis said, but commerce has returned to the assaulted city, about 150 kilometers southwest of Kabul.
The deadly clashes lasted about five days, with many city buildings set ablaze during the fighting, according to families who fled immediately after the insurgents attacked.
Ayaz Gul contributed to this report from Islamabad.