More than 30 people, mostly pro-government forces, were killed in Afghanistan when Taliban insurgents stormed security outposts and a bomb blast ripped through a busy market, officials confirmed Monday.
The Taliban staged coordinated raids in two districts of northwestern Badghis province late Sunday, killing 21 Afghan soldiers and police personnel. The attack also injured nine security forces, Abdul Aziz Beg, head of the provincial council told VOA.
A provincial government spokesman, Jamshid Shahabi, confirmed the overnight attacks, saying government forces killed 15 assailants and injured 10 others.
A Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousaf Ahmadi, claimed its fighters killed more than 32 Afghan forces and seized a large quantity of weapons. The insurgent group usually issues inflated battlefield claims.
Meanwhile, a bomb went off Monday in a busy market in eastern Paktika province, killing at least 10 people and injuring 13 others, said provincial police and health officials.
No group claimed responsibility for the deadly blast in the troubled Janikhail district of the province which borders Pakistan.
Afghan peace efforts
The violence comes as Taliban representatives and U.S. officials are scheduled to meet again this month to discuss ways to bring an end to the war in Afghanistan.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told VOA over the weekend that a date and venue for the next meeting with U.S. diplomats have not yet been determined.
“There has been no interruption in the dialogue process with America because ending the occupation of Afghanistan is now a compulsion for them [the U.S.],” said Mujahid.
Taliban officials insist they are seeking a timeline for the United States and its coalition partners to completely withdraw their troops from Afghanistan, naming the presence of foreign forces in the country as the biggest obstacle in the way of peace.
Mujahid asserted that if talks fail to achieve the desired results and the war continues with the Taliban “the Americans would have no option but to be driven out of Afghanistan.”
The Taliban has said that its engagement with the United States for negotiating an end to “the war and illegitimate occupation” of Afghanistan remains on track, ruling out once again any direct peace talks with the government in Kabul.
Mujahid dismissed the Afghan government as the product of “foreign occupation” of Afghanistan, with no “authority or ability” to end to the conflict.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said last week that President Donald Trump is in the “process of evaluating” whether to withdraw some troops from Afghanistan.
In December President Donald Trump ordered military commanders to begin preparing plans to bring back home about half of the more than 14,000 U.S. forces currently stationed in Afghanistan.