Afghan soldiers stand guard at the entrance gate of Marshal Fahim military academy in Kabul. File photo/ Reuters
Taliban fighters have killed 12 security forces in the last 48 hours in clashes in Afghanistan's western province of Badghis, the defence ministry said on Monday.
In the latest assault on Afghan forces — who have faced devastating losses in recent years — Taliban fighters last week smashed through government lines near the city of Bala Murghab, seizing several checkpoints.
“It is with great sadness we announce that during these operations, eight Afghan National Army and four police who fought with bravery and courage accepted martyrdom,” the defence ministry said in a statement.
Another 10 soldiers and 24 police were wounded in the operation that killed “99 Taliban terrorists,” it added.
Clearance operations continue in the district, officials said, and security forces helped Red Cross workers evacuate the bodies of Taliban fighters that had been left on battlefields, officials said.
The defence ministry last week said Afghan forces had made a “tactical retreat” from a number of checkpoints in the district to “avoid civilian casualties.”
Abdul Aziz Beg, the head of the Badghis provincial council, had described the situation as “critical” and called for reinforcements.
Over the weekend Afghan and US-led coalition aircraft conducted multiple air strikes in support of ground forces.
The Taliban said they had conducted a coordinated attack on a series of government checkpoints, killing 12 security forces.
The militants launched their assault ahead of a widely expected spring offensive.
They typically declare a new fighting season as winter snows melt, and have in the past sought to gain control of district centres and target government facilities.
The clash started as Zalmay Khalilzad, the US envoy tasked with forging a peace deal with the Taliban, was in Afghanistan, where he spoke with national leaders and stakeholders.
Khalilzad is expected in the coming days to go to Qatar, where Taliban and Afghan officials are due to meet.
In January, President Ashraf Ghani said 45,000 security forces had been killed since he took office in September 2014.
Stakes are high for the talks which follow a week of US-Taliban negotiations with both sides eyeing a resolution to the bloody 18-year conflict.
The Taliban have steadfastly refused to discuss peace with Ghani, whom they consider a US stooge heading an illegitimate regime.
Now is the “right moment” for peace in Afghanistan, President Ashraf Ghani said on Wednesday as he once more called on the Taliban to negotiate with his government.
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