The Taliban have killed at least 23 Afghan troops and nine civilians, officials said Monday, as a fresh wave of violence grips Afghanistan despite a deal with the US and a worsening coronavirus crisis.
Under the terms of the US-Taliban deal, the Afghan government and the insurgents were by now supposed to have concluded a prisoner exchange and started talks aimed at bringing about a comprehensive ceasefire.
But the stalled prisoner swap has been beset with problems — with Kabul claiming the Taliban are demanding the release of some of the group’s most notorious warriors — and peace talks seem as elusive ever amid ongoing attacks.
Late Sunday night in Takhar province in northeast Afghanistan, the Taliban struck an Afghan army base, killing 16 soldiers and two policemen, provincial police spokesman Khalil Asir told AFP.
The governor’s spokesman, Mohammad Jawad Hejri, confirmed the attack and also blamed the Taliban, putting the death toll at 19.
In the south, the Taliban attacked a police checkpoint near Tarin Kot, the capital of Uruzgan province.
“Five Afghan policemen were killed and three others were wounded,” Zilgai Ebadi, the provincial governor’s spokesman, told AFP.
The toll was confirmed by the head of Uruzgan provincial council, Amir Mohammad.
In the northern province of Balkh, the Taliban killed nine civilians after they resisted when insurgents tried to extort money from them, district governor Sayed Arif Iqbali told AFP.
The Taliban did not immediately comment, but they have previously complained their fighters are still being targeted by US and Afghan forces.
The violence has mostly been limited to rural areas and small towns. Under the framework of the US-Taliban deal, the insurgents have agreed not to attack cities.
Under the US-Taliban deal, American and other foreign forces are meant to quit Afghanistan by July 2021, provided the Taliban stick to several security guarantees and hold talks with the Afghan government.
Fighting has continued even as coronavirus spreads throughout Afghanistan.
It has so far seen 1,026 cases of coronavirus and 36 deaths, though real numbers are feared to be much higher as the impoverished country has only limited testing capabilities.