KABUL: At least 151 Taliban fighters have been killed by government forces during 12 days of fighting in the volatile east, near the border with Pakistan, the spokesman for the police chief of Kunar province said Tuesday.
Gen Abdul Habib Sayedkhaili said at least another 100 insurgents were wounded in the fighting in Dangam district. He said the Pakistani Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) – the group responsible for the attacks on Mumbai in 2008 in which more than 160 people were killed – were also taking part in the battle.
“That 17 foreign fighters that were killed during the battle proves that foreigners are supporting local insurgents in the area,” he said.
“As Dangam is so close to the border, it is very easy for them to cross the border into Afghanistan and help the insurgents here. We are very careful with conducting our operations to prevent civilian casualties,” he said.
The presence of foreign fighters in Taliban battles in Afghanistan is not unusual. The Afghan Taliban leadership is believed to be based in the Pakistani city of Quetta, and Kabul has long accused Pakistan of turning a blind eye to the group.
Dangam is four kilometers (2.5 miles) from the porous border. The Taliban denied losing so many fighters but did not provide their own figures.
Sayedkhaili said local people had joined the fight against the insurgents, and that five had been killed and 12 wounded among both locals and security forces. He said there was no involvement of either Pakistani government forces or international forces that have been based in Afghanistan for the past 13 years.
The US and Nato are due to withdraw the last of their combat troops on Dec 31, leaving behind a residual force of 13,000 to provide training and some battlefield backup.
Taliban attacks have escalated since international forces withdrew from Kunar four months ago and the fight across the country has intensified.
The statement comes the same day as Chief of General Staff of the Afghan National Army (ANA) General Sher Muhammad Karimi, along with Commander of International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) John Cambell, called on Pakistan’s Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif at the in Rawalpindi.
The visiting dignitaries expressed their grief over the Peshawar school carnage in which 149 innocent lives were lost, including 133 children.
The Afghan army chief and the Isaf commander assured their full support in the war against terrorism as well as in eliminating terrorists on Afghan soil.
In the wake of the Army Public School massacre, Gen Raheel had made an unscheduled visit to Kabul to share vital intelligence with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and General John Campbell.
Gen Raheel had sought Kabul's help in order to extradite top Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief Mullah Fazlullah who is wanted for terrorism cases in Pakistan. He received assurances from the Afghan government and Isaf for action against a Kunar-based Taliban splinter group which is believed to be behind the Peshawar school attack.