Clashes between Taliban fighters and Afghan forces intensified in northern Balkh and southern Logar province as warring sides fought to control checkpoints and the number of coronavirus cases in Afghanistan rises, officials said on Friday.
In recent weeks, the Taliban has attacked several provinces, ignoring a pledge to reduce violence as part of a peace deal signed with the U.S. government on Feb. 29.At least 14 members of the Afghan forces were killed and more than 20 injured during the Taliban’s attack on a district centre in the Zare district of Balkh province, Shamsurrahman Rahmani, the governor of Zare, said.
“The district centre is on the brink of collapse and Afghan forces may suffer more casualties if reinforcements are not deployed soon,” Rahmani said.Taliban spokesmen have so far not commented on the clashes in Balkh that shares a border with Uzbekistan. The province has reported 173 positive cases of the coronavirus and 10 deaths.
Afghan forces said they killed Qari Momen, a Taliban commander along with eight other fighters during an airstrike in the Khanabad district of north eastern Kunduz province on Thursday night.A Taliban spokesman could not be contacted immediately to confirm the airstrike.
In southern Logar province, Afghan forces quelled Taliban fighters from a checkpoint of the National Defense and Security Forces in the Baraki Barak district on Thursday night.“Afghan forces repulsed the Taliban’s attack as part of an active defence operation...killed 15 Taliban fighters, wounded six others, and destroyed large quantities of weapons and ammunition,” the federal defence ministry said in a statement.
At least four members of the Afghan forces were killed and five were injured in the clashes, it stated.The Taliban’s spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said 10 Taliban fighters and 14 members of the Afghan forces were killed in Logar.
The Taliban have mounted more than 4,500 attacks in Afghanistan, marking a sharp escalation in violence, in the 45 days since signing a deal with the United States that paves the way for a U.S. troop drawdown. Separately, Afghan government data indicates that more than 900 Afghan local and national forces were killed during that same period, up from about 520 in the same period a year earlier.
Meanwhile, Taliban casualties fell to 610 in the period, down from roughly 1,660 a year ago, as U.S. and Afghan forces have reduced the number of offensive attacks and air strikes following the U.S.-Taliban accord.
Senior western, Afghan and independent officials tracking the ground situation in the war-damaged nation say that the increase in attacks displays the insurgent group’s wilful disregard for a reduction in violence pledge that was part of the accord signed in late February.
The violence has coincided with the rapid spread of the coronavirus infection.The four provinces that have reported the highest number of cases of the infection have also been the ones hit by the most by Taliban violence in recent weeks, according to the two data sets and at least three senior Afghan and western officials.
As of May 1, Afghanistan has reported over 2,335 coronavirus cases and 68 deaths, but international observers believe numbers could be much higher, give the lack of testing.“Taliban fighters are not hitting large government centres or cities, they are focusing on villages in Herat, Kabul, Kandahar and Balkh provinces that have reported the highest number of coronavirus cases,” said a senior Western security official on condition of anonymity.