ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN - Authorities in Afghanistan say the latest military-led offensives, backed by coalition airpower, have killed nearly 100 Taliban insurgents and injured dozens more in a bid to reclaim full control of a volatile district in western Badghis province.
Hundreds of heavily armed insurgents assaulted Bala Murghab last Thursday for the second time in a month and overran key parts of the district, including the police headquarters and main prison, before killing at least 30 Afghan troops and capturing as many others.
A government counteroffensive has since regularly carried out air raids against Taliban positions in the district and U.S.-led coalition planes have assisted, the Defense Ministry in Kabul said Monday.
The fighting during the past two days has killed 12 Afghan troops and wounded at least 34 others, according to the Ministry.
“The clearing operation continues in Bala Murghab district,” it added.
Fighting also has intensified in other parts of Afghanistan with the advent of spring, despite U.S.-led efforts to reach a peace deal with the Taliban.
Sunday, chief American peace negotiator, Zalmay Khalilzad, concluded a nearly weeklong visit to Kabul where he held extensive consultations with leaders inside and outside the Afghan government as well as civil society representatives.
The Afghan-born U.S. special reconciliation representative is expected to enter into another round of peace negotiations with the Taliban later this month in Qatar in his bid to start an intra-Afghan dialogue to bring an end to the 18-year-old war that continues to inflict record levels of casualties on combatants and civilians.
Separately, Islamic State took responsibility for Monday’s bombing of a police convoy in Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar province. Afghan officials said the blast killed a police officer and a civilian while eight other people were injured.
This was the third bomb attack in the city in three days, all of them claimed by Islamic State’s local affiliate, Khorasan Province (ISKP). The violence has killed at least five people and injured dozens more.
But an IS statement claimed it detonated four improvised explosive devices (IED) in Jalalabad in five days, killing 21 people. The group’s claims are often inflated.
ISKP’s loyalists are mostly active in parts of Nangarhar and in the adjoining Kunar province, both of them sharing a border with Pakistan. The terrorist outfit is under attack from U.S.-backed Afghan forces, while Taliban insurgents are also waging attacks against the militant group in Taliban-controlled areas.