PENTAGON — Pentagon officials say the Taliban can just have the city of Ghazni in Afghanistan since the U.S. military didn't really want it anyway, sources confirmed today.
Days after the Taliban launched a major assault on the city of about 280,000 people, senior defense officials downplayed its significance in the overall South Asia Strategy. Although the Taliban was able to mass about 1,000 fighters and took over large portions of the city, American officials stressed it wasn't really that important since it was 100 miles from the capital of Kabul.
"If the Taliban got in their trucks and started rolling up to Kabul, it would take them over an hour to get there," said Gen. John Nicholson, the commanding general of NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Still, American forces have assisted Afghan forces in clearing operations in the city. Officials said that so far, roughly 140 Taliban fighters had been killed, demonstrating that the U.S. and Afghans would likely retake the city as soon as the enemy body count was accurately tallied.
"Things are complicated there," said Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White. "But our Afghan partners are valiantly holding the line with the weapons and air support we continue to provide to them like a warm blanket."
Officials added that Ghazni was "strategically irrelevant" in the grand scheme of the Resolute Support mission, whose goal is to support defense contractors and generals' careers by not defeating the Taliban by, with, and through their Afghan partners.
"There are hundreds of cities in Afghanistan," Nicholson told reporters. "I just don't get why all of you are focused on this one."