The Afghan government has sent additional forces to the Hazara-populated areas of southeastern Ghazni Province, which has been under attack by the Taliban militant group for several days.
The troops, including special forces, were deployed on Monday to the Jaghori and Malistan districts of Ghazni, where fighters with the local Shia Hazara community are helping the government forces in battles against the Taliban militants.
“We have sent more reinforcements to Jaghori and Malistan districts,” including 40 intelligence officers and 35 members of the security forces, said Afghan Army chief of staff General Mohammad Sharif Yaftali.
“As part of a bigger plan we are also sending more ground forces and will soon start a big operation in Ghazni,” he added.
The deployment took place after the Taliban inflicted heavy casualties on Afghan forces during heavy clashes in Ghazni and the western regions of the country, according to officials.
About 25 Afghan commandos were reportedly killed by Taliban in Ghazni late on Sunday, while 50 security forces lost their lives in similar clashes in Farah Province.
Yaftali confirmed to reporters that Afghan forces had suffered casualties, without giving more details.
At least 25 civilians and government forces have been killed in a Taliban attack in Afghanistan’s Ghazi province.
Ghazni – which was briefly overrun by the Taliban in August – is strategically important as it is located on a highway connecting the capital, Kabul, to the major southern city of Kandahar. It is also a gateway into the mountainous central province of Hazarajat, also home mainly to Shia Hazara people.
Fatal blast targets anti-violence rally in Kabul
The stepped-up violence in Ghazni prompted protests in Kabul late Sunday and on Monday morning, when hundreds of Shia Hazaras took to the streets demanding better security in the troubled region.
“We have no news from our people living there,” Asif Ashna, one of the protesters, said in a Facebook live broadcast. “If the government’s duty is to protect the lives of the people then why have they not taken any measures in the past week?”
As the demonstration was underway on Monday, a bomb attack hit a security checkpoint near the site of the rally in central Kabul, an area that also hosts the finance and justice ministries and is close to the presidential palace.
Six people were killed in the explosion, said Najib Danish, an Interior Ministry spokesman. Ten policemen and civilians, including women, were also wounded.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
The US, along with a number of fellow-NATO members, invaded Afghanistan in 2001, toppling a Taliban regime in control of most of the country at the time, but it has failed to restore security in the country plagued by militancy and terrorism.
The Daesh terror group has also used the chaos to establish a foothold in Afghanistan, launching deadly attacks in the country from time to time.
The latest escalation comes as US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad returned to the region as part of efforts to convince the Taliban to end the 17-year militancy amid Washington’s failures on the battleground.