Afghan Government security forces have killed at least 51 Taliban fighters in the southern province of Kandahar. This is the latest outburst of violence, as both parties are conducting peace negotiations in Qatar while at the same time disputing national territory.
The Afghan Ministry of Defense said the attacks on Taliban positions in five districts on Saturday night – a combination of ground and air attacks that also destroyed four Taliban ammunition depots – were a response to rebel attacks.
A delegation of representatives of the army, the provincial police and the governor of Kandahar is also investigating allegations by locals that civilians in the Arghandab district died in the government’s air raids, according to a report from the department. The Taliban said 13 civilians were killed in an air raid, while a spokesman for the provincial governor said seven civilians died after the Taliban detonated explosives planted in Hammera.
Colonel Sonny Leggett,
A spokesman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan said in a statement that the United States had defeated the Taliban to support Afghan forces in another area, adding that Taliban claims over civilian casualties were false.
The rocket exploded in Kabul on Saturday.
In a video filmed by a resident of Argandab and watched by the Wall Street Journal, the bodies of 11 people were found, including at least seven children.
Accusations of civilian casualties provoked protests on Sunday by residents of Argandab who transported the bodies of their dead relatives to Kandahar City.
Suspected civilian casualties increase Afghan fears that government troops will not be able to confront the Taliban, as American troops continue to withdraw from the longest American war.
The Taliban’s major offensive in October against the battle capital of Helmand was only prevented by American air strikes. During the battle, two Afghan Air Force helicopters collided in the air, killing nine soldiers.
The Sabbath government’s counter-offensive against the Taliban in Kandahar came hours after delegations from both sides announced in Doha that they would suspend the peace talks until early January, after reaching a compromise on procedural differences that had stalled before they could be seriously engaged. The Taliban and Afghanistan delegations are ready to discuss the agenda when negotiations are resumed.
Afghan men gather Saturday at the site of a rocket attack on a house in Kabul.
Haddatullah in Shatterstock
In September, the Afghan government began the first peace talks with insurgents in Qatari’s capital after an agreement was reached in February between the Taliban and the United States on a phased withdrawal of some 12,000 American troops still stationed in Afghanistan.
In turn, the Taliban have committed to peace talks with the government in Kabul and to preventing al-Qaeda and other international terrorist groups from operating out of Afghanistan.
Since the signing of the agreement, the United States has reduced its troops to approximately 4,500 men. Last month the Pentagon announced that it plans to reduce the number of troops to around 2500 on the day of the inauguration.
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In discussions with Trump’s administration, the Taliban also agreed to significantly reduce the violence, Western officials said. But the Afghan security forces accuse the Taliban of using US aerial bombardment to take advantage of the battlefield by encircling government bases and seizing highways.
Despite the dramatic increase in Taliban attacks across the country, the number of civilian casualties from January to September this year fell by 30% compared to the previous year, to around 6,000, 2,117 of whom were killed, according to the United Nations.
The decline in the number of deaths is mainly due to the decline in large-scale suicide attacks in areas densely populated by anti-government groups and the almost total absence of air strikes in the United States, which, according to the United Nations, killed dozens of civilians during the war.
Write to Sune Engel Rasmussen at [email protected]
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