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Afghan President Visits Ghazni After Taliban Assault On City

President Ashraf Ghani (center) is greeted during his trip to Ghazni Province on August 17.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has visited the city Ghazni, a week after Taliban fighters launched a surprise attack on the strategic provincial capital and captured several neighborhoods.

With Taliban fighters still positioned on the outskirts of the city, the Afghan president on August 17 arrived by helicopter rather than traveling the 120 kilometers southwest from Kabul on Afghanistan's main "ring road" highway.

Reports say two rockets were fired into the city as Ghani met at a nearby mosque with tribal elders and local security officials. A third rocket landed in a nearby river.

Afghan authorities say nobody was injured by the rockets and Ghani was never in any danger. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the rocket attack.

Ghani's visit came hours after U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the situation in Ghazni has become "much more stable" since most Taliban fighters withdrew to the outskirts of the city. But Mattis also confirmed that someTaliban fighters remain in Ghazni and are "trying to get resupplied."

Ghani (center, back) meets with Afghan military commanders in Ghazni on August 17.
Ghani (center, back) meets with Afghan military commanders in Ghazni on August 17.

"They have not endeared themselves, obviously, to the population of Ghazni," Mattis said during an August 16 visit to Colombia. "They use terror. They use bombs because they can't win with ballots."

Mattis also said the Taliban is trying to "up the ante" ahead of an expected cease-fire offer from the Afghan government and elections scheduled for October.

But he said the militants failed to achieve any of their "six objectives" in their assault on Ghazni, which began on August 10.

"It's been principally an information operation to grab a lot of press attention," Mattis said. "They've been successful [at that]."

Afghan officials say more than 100 Afghan security forces and about 30 civilians were killed in five days of fighting, along with dozens of Taliban militants.

With about 270,000 residents, Ghazni is Afghanistan's seventh-largest city.

The International Committee of the Red Crescent (ICRC) says it is organizing the delivery of emergency water supplies for about 18,000 people because the city's water system shut down when the recent fighting began.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and dpa