Afghanistan's Taliban launched new assaults in at least two northern provinces near the border with central Asian countries, but government officials have denied insurgent claims of battlefield advances.
The deputy governor of northeastern Badakhsan province, Gul Mohammad Baidar, said Monday insurgents mounted a three-pronged attack overnight on the remote Khash district but security forces repulsed it.
He told VOA timely deployment of reinforcements from the provincial capital of Faizabad and Kabul enabled security forces to defend the area, killing dozens of assailants in fighting that last several hours.
He declined to comment on losses to government forces, saying there were no confirmed figures available immediately.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed its fighters have besieged the district center after overrunning villages and security outposts around it, inflicting heavy casualties on government forces.
It is not possible to independently verify claims made by either side because of the remoteness of the war zone.
Fighting in Badakhshan erupted after a lull of several months. Officials also confirmed Taliban insurgents assaulted security outposts around the Qala-e-Zal district in northern Kunduz province early Monday.
The rebels reportedly captured several villages there and fighting has caused casualties on both sides, but no confirmed details were immediately available.
Meanwhile, witnesses in neighboring Baghlan province said anti-government fighters have asked residents in several villages of a central district to relocate to safer areas before a possible Taliban attack.
The renewed hostilities came a day after U.S. Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joe Dunford concluded a three-day visit to Kabul as part of the overall assessment of NATO's Resolute Support Afghan mission.
Dunford said Sunday Afghan forces have significantly increased their capabilities, notably air power, as possible reasons why the level of violence has been lower than anticipated in the middle of the Afghan fighting season.
"I think there's a degree of optimism that the Afghan forces have the momentum this summer, but I think the Taliban have proven to be resilient in the past, and I think there's still a fair amount of fighting ahead," he cautioned.
Fighting in the northern and northeastern border regions has raised alarm in neighboring central Asian countries, some of which are also under threat from indigenous Islamist militants.
In a bid to allay those fears, the Taliban said it is struggling to end the foreign occupation of Afghanistan and establish an "Islamic system" in the country.