Dozens of Afghan forces killed in two Taliban attacks: Kabul

Updated March 31, 2020

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Militants have not claimed responsibility for strikes. — AFP/File
Militants have not claimed responsibility for strikes. — AFP/File

KABUL: The Taliban have killed about two dozen Afghan police and pro-government fighters, officials said Monday, in two attacks that come as the foes are supposed to be preparing for peace talks.

In one of the incidents late Sunday, the insurgents killed at least six soldiers and 13 police and pro-government militiamen at several outposts near a police headquarters building in northeastern Takhar province, provincial police spokesman Khalil Assir told AFP.

A wedding party was being held in the building at the time, but the attackers did not reach the headquarters.

“The police bravely defended and prevented the Taliban from entering the celebration,” Assir said.

Mohammad Azam Afzali, a member of Takhar’s provincial council, gave a slightly lower toll, saying 17 police and pro-government militiamen were killed in the fighting that lasted at least seven hours.

The Taliban did not immediately comment.

Militants have not claimed responsibility for strikes

Meanwhile, a Taliban attack on an army outpost in southern Zabul province on Sunday night left at least six soldiers dead, the defence ministry said in a statement.

Four people were also wounded when a sticky bomb attached to a small truck went off in Kabul city on Monday morning, the interior ministry said.

No one immediately claimed that attack.

The latest bloodshed comes during diplomatic efforts to kickstart talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

The insurgents had agreed to speak to the government under a deal with the United States signed in Doha last month, but the dialogue has been derailed by a dispute over a prisoner exchange and the Taliban are also grumbling about the composition of Kabul’s negotiating team.

The talks were supposed to start in Oslo on March 10. Now it is unclear when they might begin.

Derailing efforts

The latest bloodshed comes during diplomatic efforts to kickstart talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

Afghanistan’s political turmoil and the rivalry between Ghani and Abdullah have impeded each step toward talks with the Taliban negotiations that were supposed to come next under a peace deal that Washington signed with the insurgents last month.

The deal calls for the eventual withdrawal of all 13,000 US soldiers from Afghanistan in exchange for guarantees from the Taliban that they would fight other militant groups, including the militant Islamic State group.

The deal has been touted as Afghanistan’s best chance yet of ending its relentless wars.

The insurgents had agreed to speak to the government under a deal with the United States signed in Doha last month, but the dialogue has been derailed by a dispute over a prisoner exchange and the Taliban are also grumbling about the composition of Kabul’s negotiating team.

Moreover, Ghani and Abdullah, who also declared himself president in a parallel inauguration ceremony earlier this month, have been locked in a power struggle that has prompted Washington to say it would cut $1 billion in assistance to Afghanistan if the two couldn’t get their act together.

The Taliban are to send 10 representatives to the US-led coalition base in Bagram, north of Kabul, to oversee the release of their prisoners.

Published in Dawn, March 31st, 2020