Map showing Zabul province, Afghanistan
Map showing Zabul province, Afghanistan

ISLAMABAD - The Taliban insurgency reportedly has killed more than 65 government forces and made territorial advances in fresh attacks across Afghanistan during the past two days.

The clashes in western Farah and southern Zabul provinces erupted Thursday and Friday when insurgents attacked security outposts in these areas.

A security source confirmed to VOA Saturday that insurgents late night stormed Zabul's Arghandab district, killing 22 police personnel and wounding 12 others. The source added the rebels also captured three security posts but shared no further details.

Provincial deputy governor, Rehmatullah, confirmed fighting in the district, saying Afghan forces have begun a counteroffensive to push back the rebel forces.

Separately, the Afghan Defense Ministry said that insurgents Thursday night assaulted the provincial headquarters of Farah in their bid to capture it. The ensuing fierce clashes, the ministry said, left 16 government forces dead and several wounded, while 45 Taliban assailants also were killed.

A Taliban spokesman claimed its fighters killed 27 government forces and overran a "large outpost", seizing weapons and "large amount of equipment."

On Thursday, the Taliban attacked and killed 43 Afghan soldiers and policemen in Farah's Bala Buluk district, and overran two security posts there,  Afghan television channel, ATN News, quoted the provincial council head, Farid Bakhtawar, as confirming.

Insurgents control or contest a majority of Farah's 11 districts. The province borders Iran and it is a major opium-poppy growing area in western Afghanistan.

The Taliban launched its so-called spring offensive on April 25 and has since inflicted heavy casualties on Afghan forces besides capturing new districts.

The U.S.-backed Kabul government last week informed parliament that during the first eight days of this month, insurgent killed more than 250 Afghan forces and wounded 400 others.

Critics cite lack of manpower and rampant corruption for the increased battlefield setbacks Afghan forces have suffered since 2014, when NATO transferred national security responsibilities to them and most of the international forces withdrew.

The Taliban has since expanded its influence to most of the 34 Afghan provinces, advances the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR, has again noted in its latest quarterly report.

The watchdog said that government forces have suffered large casualties but Kabul has recently asked the U.S. military not to release those casualty figures publicly.

"As of January 31, 2018, about 65 percent of Afghanistan's estimated 32.5 million people lived in areas under Afghan government control or influence. Insurgents controlled or influenced areas containing 12 percent of the population. The remaining 23 percent of the population lived in contested areas," according to SIGAR .

The intensified violence threatens the peaceful holding of long-delayed Afghan parliamentary and district council elections now scheduled for October 20.

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