Accounts from residents leaving the city said the only areas still being held by the government were the governor’s office, police and intelligence agencies headquarters, an ancient fort called the Bala Hisar and a few other government facilities.
The United States military has an estimated 14,000 troops in Afghanistan, mostly advisers and support forces, but also Special Operations troops. Unlike most of the other 40 members of the international military coalition in Afghanistan, the Americans are allowed to participate in military operations, and they have done so on several occasions when Afghan forces ran into severe difficulty. In addition, the United States frequently provides air support for the Afghans.
In addition to taking the Khwaja Omari district north of Ghazni city, the insurgents took over the large community of Nawabad, to the northwest, on Friday. Saleem Shah, a money changer who lives in Nawabad and was reached by telephone, said the insurgents circulated, hoisting their white flags and telling residents they would not be harmed. Many residents with multistory homes, however, were asked to leave so the Taliban could use their roofs to take position for fighting.
Taliban insurgents said they had amassed forces from several provinces for the attack on Ghazni, the fourth time they have tried to overrun a provincial capital. Despite the large number of insurgents fighting in Ghazni, the Taliban also mounted deadly attacks in two other parts of the country on Friday and Saturday.
In the northern province of Faryab, a sustained assault over several weeks on an Afghan National Army base in the Ghormusch District ended on Saturday with the deaths of 32 Afghan security forces, 17 army soldiers and 15 border officers, according to First Lt. Shah Fahim, the platoon commander whose unit was defending the base.
His company commander, Capt. Sayid Azam, was among the dead. “The base is full of wounded and dead, and the whole place is covered in blood,” Lieutenant Fahim said. “It’s a miracle we’re alive. They attacked us with 1,000 militants and all kinds of heavy equipment.”
More than a third of the defenders were killed, he said.
The day before, hundreds of miles away, in the north central province of Baghlan, a Taliban attack on a base guarding the strategic highway to Kunduz killed nine soldiers and seven police officers, according to the local battalion commander, Zabihullah Ghorzang. Three other soldiers were taken prisoner by the insurgents, he said.
Four days before his death, Captain Azam spoke by cellphone to a reporter, his voice desperate and angry. “Since 20 days we are asking for help and no one is listening,” he said. “Every night fighting, every night the enemy are attacking us from three sides with rockets. We don’t know what to do.”