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Sporadic clashes raged for a third day Sunday for the control of Afghanistan's southeastern city of Ghanzi amid conflicting claims about whether the government or the Taliban insurgency controlled key installations.

As fighting continued throughout the day, he said US forces returned, sending attack helicopters and fighter jets back to the area.

The main highway through Ghazni, the Kabul-Kandahar highway - has also been closed to traffic by the Taliban for days - which has affected hundreds of motorists.

The descriptions stood in stark contrast to statements from Afghan and U.S. officials, who said government forces were firmly in control of the city and vowed that Ghazni was in no danger of being seized by the Taliban. But at the same time, they said clearance operations were continuing and additional troops were being sent to boost the city's defence. "The city is not going to fall", Danish told a press conference after confusion mounted over Ghazni's fate following hours of official silence.

O'Donnell also said "tactically, operationally and strategically, the Taliban achieved nothing with this failed attack except another eye-catching, but inconsequential headline".

Afghan special operations forces were deployed alongside regular troops to fight the Taliban back.

Mohammad Sharif Yaftali, the Afghan army's chief-of-staff, said the strategic city was not under threat of falling into the militants' hands.

Paktia borders Ghazni but the direct route has been under Taliban control recently, said a source adding that the convoy was forced to take a long route - through Logar and Wardak provinces - in order to get to Ghazni.

Danish said at least 25 security forces had died in the fighting along with 150 Taliban fighters.

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However, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the insurgents held a number of strategic locations and had stolen a large quantity of weapons and equipment as well as taking more than 100 prisoners among the security forces.

"No one knows what the exact situation is because there is no communication service", he said.

The U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation formally concluded their combat mission at the end of 2014, but have repeatedly come to the aid of Afghan forces as they have struggled to combat a resurgent Taliban.

Still, Andrew Wilder, vice president of Asia programs at the U.S. Institute of Peace said Washington would welcome a "constructive" Russian role in finding a way toward a peace pact in Afghanistan.

In 2015, the Taliban seized for several days the northern city of Kunduz, its greatest military achievement since the U.S. invasion in 2001.

According to the US military headquarters in Kabul, US aircraft conducted at least four air raids on Sunday and five more on Saturday, but details of the fighting were unclear as most of the city's telecoms masts were destroyed in recent fighting over recent.

Likewise, most residents were trapped inside the city.

"Afghan government welcomes any effort regarding the Afghan peace process, especially those attempts which can lead us to an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process", said Taheri.

But the Taliban have so far ignored Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's offer of unconditional peace negotiations even though their representatives met United States officials in Qatar last month and are to hold another meeting next month.


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