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KABUL: Taliban fighters launched a wave of attacks against security outposts in the east and south of Afghanistan over the last two days, even as efforts to jump-start peace talks were renewed. The violence left 14 police dead and 10 others wounded, officials said on Friday.

Recent overtures by the US administration indicating a willingness to concede to the Taliban’s long-standing demand for direct talks has increased expectations of progress towards a peaceful end to the protracted violence.

Despite that, insurgents have carried out waves of assaults against the Afghan National Security Forces that have left scores dead in recent weeks.

The Taliban issued a statement earlier this week ordering fighters not to attack civilians. This wasn’t the first such order and in the past similar ones did not put an end to civilian casualties, but it comes amid the most significant and wide-reaching attempt yet at kick-starting peace negotiations.

A Taliban representative said the group has yet to receive a specific offer of talks from Washington. The Taliban have been demanding direct talks to discuss foreign troop withdrawal as well as to know US concerns about their involvement in a future Afghan administration and put those concerns to rest.When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan before the 2001 US-led assault that followed the terrorist attacks on the United States, Taliban leaders complained that a powerful US would never accept their presence in Afghanistan.

Taliban officials say they want direct talks with the US to address their concerns and get Washington’s guarantees, which they say is necessary because the Afghan government acts on the instruction of Washington.

In an International Crisis Group (ICG) report released on Friday the organisation called for talks, welcomed the US offer of direct talks and noted that a brief ceasefire during Eidul Fitr last month showed that both sides in the conflict had control over their fighters in that they successfully ended hostilities. The Taliban and government declared ceasefires independent of the other. But for now, the violence continues.

In eastern Ghazni province, District Gov. Saeeb Khan Elham said that insurgents launched a wave of attacks on compounds and police security posts in the Qarabagh district late the night before.

He said government forces meant to reinforce the district were attacked in a Taliban ambush that included roadside mines and were unable to help.

Zabihullah Mujahid, spokesman for the Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack. He said 16 police were killed and a government compound in the district damaged.

In southern Zabul province, deputy provincial council member Asadullah Kakar said Taliban fighters attacked several security posts in Share Safa district killing six police.

Another three police were wounded and the Taliban escaped with ammunition and weapons.Battles between Taliban and fighters of the militant Islamic State group in a remote district of Jawzjan province in northern Afghanistan have caused heavy casualties and displaced thousands of people in recent days, officials said on Friday. IS and Taliban militants are fighting each other in several northern provinces. Mohammad Reza Ghafouri, spokesman for the Jawzjan provincial governor’s office, said fighting between the two groups had been going on for over a week in the southern districts of Darzab and Qush Tepa.

Published in Dawn, July 21st, 2018