ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN - New clashes between government security forces and the Taliban in northern Afghanistan are said to have killed around 20 combatants on both sides.
The predawn fighting in Kunduz province erupted after insurgents assaulted several Afghan police outposts in the volatile Imam Sahib district.
A provincial police spokesman, Inamuddin Rahmani, told VOA the clashes left at least nine police personnel, including a local commander, dead and several others injured. He said 11 assailants were also killed.
For its part the Taliban claimed in a statement that the raid killed 14 among the government forces and overran the security posts. It did not give insurgent casualties.
It was not possible to verify either claim from independent sources in a province that has been the site of intense fighting for years. The Taliban twice captured, though briefly, the provincial capital, also known as Kunduz.
The latest fighting comes as the United States is preparing to relaunch its peace negotiations with the Taliban, possibly next week, nearly three months after President Donald Trump abruptly halted the process.
U.S. chief negotiator, Zalmay Khalilzad, is currently visiting the Afghan capital of Kabul, where he is holding meetings with politicians inside and outside of the government before heading to Doha, Qatar, where Taliban negotiators are based.
"In Doha, Ambassador Khalilzad will rejoin talks with the Taliban to discuss steps that could lead to intra-Afghan negotiations and a peaceful settlement of the war, specifically a reduction in violence that leads to a ceasefire,” a State Department announcement said.
The Gulf nation played host to the yearlong U.S.-Taliban dialogue before it was called off by Trump on September 7, when the process had entered a decisive stage, say Taliban officials. Trump had cited intensification in deadly insurgent attacks in Kabul that also killed, among others, an American soldier.
The two foes in the 18-year war, America’s longest, had come close to concluding an agreement that would have set the stage for a phased withdrawal of U.S and NATO forces. In return, the Taliban would have immediately observed a ceasefire in areas of troop withdrawal and given counterterrorism assurances, The insurgent group would have also been required to launch intra-Afghan negotiations to discuss a permanent ceasefire across Afghanistan among other political issues.