May 29, 2020
ISLAMABAD – Authorities in Afghanistan said Friday the Taliban has killed at least 14 border security forces and injured several others in eastern Paktia province.
The Afghan Defense Ministry said insurgents assaulted outposts in Paktia’s Dand-e-Patan district, which borders Pakistan, late Thursday, but Afghan border forces repulsed the attack and inflicted “heavy casualties” on the Taliban.
The insurgent group claimed credit for what it said was a “defensive attack” against “two security outposts the enemy” had built in Taliban-held areas. The Taliban statement confirmed the killing of two of its fighters in the overnight clashes, saying it also captured an Afghan security personnel.
Battlefield claims made by parties to the Afghan war are usually difficult to verify from independent sources.
Earlier this week, the Taliban killed at least 14 Afghan security personnel in northern Parwan and western Farah provinces.
The violence followed a temporary cease-fire the two adversaries observed during the three-day Eid festivities in Afghanistan that ended on Tuesday.
The renewed hostilities come amid a slow-moving prisoner swap between the government and the Taliban, which is aimed at paving the way for long-awaited intra-Afghan peace negotiations.
The prisoner exchange and the ensuing proposed intra-Afghan peace dialogue are part of a landmark agreement the United States signed with the Taliban in February to seek a negotiated settlement to the nearly 19-year-old conflict in Afghanistan.
The February 29 agreement stipulated that Kabul would release up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners in exchange for 1,000 Afghan security personnel being held by the insurgents.
The Afghan government so far has a freed about 2,000 Taliban inmates, while the insurgent group has set free about 350 detainees.
The Taliban announced Thursday that a 5-member insurgent “technical team” had returned to the Afghan capital for “verification and identification of prisoners” being released by the government.
Under the U.S.-Taliban pact, all American and coalition troops are supposed to leave the country by mid-2021, ending America’s longest war.
President Donald Trump renewed his intent Wednesday to pull American troops, again questioning the goal of the current U.S. military mission to Afghanistan.
“We are acting as a police force, not the fighting force that we are, in Afghanistan. After 19 years, it is time for them [Afghans] to police their own country. Bring our soldiers back home but closely watch what is going on and strike with a thunder like never before, if necessary!” Trump tweeted.
Washington already has begun to withdraw U.S. forces under the deal with the Taliban and is committed to reduce the force size to about 8,600 by mid-July this year.
In return, the Taliban has pledged counterterrorism assurances and to continue reducing violent attacks in Afghanistan. It also is required to engage in talks with other Afghan groups to negotiate peace and a power-sharing arrangement to govern the country post-foreign troop withdrawal.