January 1, 2020
ISLAMABAD – Officials in Afghanistan said Wednesday Taliban insurgents have killed at least 28 pro-government forces in overnight attacks in the country’s north.
Despite harsh weather conditions, the Taliban has staged almost daily battlefield attacks in Afghanistan’s northern and northeastern provinces over the past week, killing some 100 Afghan forces and injuring many more.
An Afghan official requesting anonymity told VOA that a security outpost in Dasht-e-Archi district of northern Kunduz province came under a major insurgent attack that left 13 pro-government forces dead.
A provincial member council, Fawzai Eftali, while speaking to VOA, confirmed the casualties inflicted on Afghan forces, saying the attack also left several personnel injured.
Another 15 security personnel were killed in the neighboring Balkh and Takhar provinces, said police commanders and government spokesmen there.
Chief Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, in statements sent to reporters, claimed a total of 50 government forces were killed in the overnight attacks across the three provinces, though the insurgents often exaggerate their claims.
For its part, the Afghan Defense Ministry also claimed Wednesday its forces have killed dozens of Taliban “terrorists” in airstrikes and ground operations across different provinces. It was not possible to ascertain the veracity of those claims from independent sources.
The United States, which is backing the Afghan government in its battle with the Taliban, has been trying to find a negotiated settlement to the 18-year-old war with the insurgent group, but the dialogue process has suffered setbacks lately due to continued violence.
The latest disruption came two weeks ago when the Taliban launched a suicide bombing-and-shooting raid in the largest U.S. military base of Bagram, north of the Afghan capital, Kabul. Washington halted the talks, demanding the Taliban commit to a temporary cease-fire before the peace process could be resumed and a deal signed between the two adversaries.
But the Taliban on Monday announced it has “no intention” to cease hostilities, though it admitted the insurgent leadership is looking into a U.S. request for reducing the scale of Taliban battlefield operations.
The insurgent group reiterated that it would discuss a nation-wide cease-fire and future governing system in the country in Taliban-Afghan negotiations when they begin. But those talks cannot take place unless an agreement is concluded on the withdrawal of all U.S. and allied troops from Afghanistan, the Taliban stressed in its statement.
The relentless conflict in Afghanistan is also taking an appalling toll on civilians. The United Nations earlier this week reported that more than 100,000 Afghan civilians have been killed or injured in the last ten years alone.