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Taliban Rules Out Afghan Cease-fire

In this photo released by the Foreign Office, Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, center, receives members of Taliban delegation at the Foreign Office in Islamabad, Pakistan, Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019. Senior Taliban leaders are meeting…

The Taliban announced Monday it does not intend to stop fighting in Afghanistan, rejecting as "false and baseless" reports the insurgent group is ready to declare a temporary cease-fire in a bid to seal a peace deal with the United States.

The announcement comes on a day when Taliban insurgents killed at least 14 Afghan security forces in the latest of a series of deadly assaults over the past week.

Chief Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid noted in a statement that internal consultations at the leadership level are currently underway to consider a U.S. request for the insurgent group to reduce violence.

"The reality of the situation is that the Islamic Emirate (the Taliban) has no intention of declaring a cease-fire," Mujahid said, refuting as "malicious enemy" propaganda media reports suggesting otherwise.

The denial came after Afghan and some foreign media outlets reported Sunday that at the end of an internal consultation process the Taliban’s ruling council agreed to cease hostilities for a week to further peace talks with the United States.

"The United States has asked for a reduction in the scale and intensity of violence and discussions being held by the Islamic Emirate are revolving solely around this specific issue," Mujahid explained.

Fresh fighting

Meanwhile, Taliban insurgents have killed at least 14 Afghan forces in overnight clashes in northern Jowzjan province.

A provincial government spokesman, Abdul Marouf Azar, told VOA the casualties occurred in Faizabad district where insurgents staged a major pre-dawn assault on a security outpost.

The ensuing clashes also wounded five Afghan soldiers while two others went missing, he said. Azar added that seven Taliban assailants were killed in retaliatory fire.

A Taliban statement claimed its fighters seized a large number of weapons, ammunition and other military equipment.

The Afghan district is located on the main highway linking Jowzjan with the neighboring Balkh province, where the Taliban has also staged repeated deadly attacks on security forces in recent days.

The insurgents have carried out major attacks over the past week across Afghanistan, killing more than 60 government security forces and injuring many more.

For their part, Afghan security officials say retaliatory actions and counter-insurgency operations have also killed dozens of Taliban fighters.

Washington earlier this month paused a yearlong troubled peace dialogue with the Taliban, demanding a reduction in insurgent violence before the process between the two adversaries is taken further.

The Taliban, however, wants to seal a peace agreement with the United States on the complete withdrawal of U.S. and NATO-led coalition forces from the country before entering into negotiations with Afghan stakeholders to discuss a permanent settlement to the 18-year-old war, America’s longest.

But the Trump administration has said a troop drawdown process would be "conditions-based", meaning progress in Taliban-Afghan peace talks would determine the troop reduction pace.

There are currently more than 12,000 American troops stationed in Afghanistan. NATO allies have about 8,000 forces.