1145 GMT January 18, 2019
The Taliban launched an attack early Monday on a newly established joint Afghan Army and Police checkpoint in eastern Ghazni Province, killing at least 13 soldiers and policemen, according to a provincial official.
Afghan reinforcements were subsequently dispatched to the site of the attack in Khogyani district but were repeatedly ambushed along the way. And late on Sunday night, a Taliban attack in southern Kandahar Province killed at least four policemen and wounded two others, AP reported.
Arif Noori, spokesman for the provincial governor in Ghazni, said seven soldiers and six policemen were killed in Monday’s attack on the checkpoint, and four soldiers were wounded.
According to Noori, six terrorists were killed and more than 10 others were wounded during the ensuing three-hour battle with Afghan forces. Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, claimed responsibility for the Ghazni and Kandahar attacks.
The joint army-police checkpoint was set up just two days ago in a strategic area to cut off a key supply route for the Taliban but was now completely burned down and destroyed, Noori said.
Reinforcements were rushed to assist the forces under attack but they were ambushed by other Taliban members at least four times while on their way to the checkpoint, said Noori.
The Taliban have stepped up attacks in volatile Ghazni, and in August overran parts of the provincial capital, also called Ghazni. At the time, hundreds of people fled the city amid intense fighting between Afghan forces and the Taliban that killed about 120 members of the security forces and civilians. According to Afghan authorities, nearly 200 terrorists, many of them foreigners, were also killed.
Ghazni is the only one out of 34 Afghan provinces where the country’s October parliamentary elections could not take place for security reasons. Voting there has been postponed for a year.
In the Kandahar attack on Sunday night, according to Aziz Ahmad Azizi, the provincial governor’s spokesman, six terrorists were also killed, and seven were wounded in Khakrez district, where a checkpoint was also attacked. He said the Taliban fled the area after their attack was repelled.
The assaults came as the Taliban hold nearly half of Afghanistan, with near-daily attacks on Afghan security forces. The US and its allies invaded Afghanistan in 2001 under the guise of the war on terror. Some 17 years on, the Taliban, after their ouster by NATO forces in 2001, have only boosted their campaign of violence across the country, targeting both civilians and security forces in bloody assaults.
In August, Russia proposed holding multilateral peace talks in Moscow, and invited 12 countries and the Taliban to attend a summit the following month. But the meeting was postponed after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani rejected the invitation on the grounds that talks with the Taliban should be led by the Afghan government.
However, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on Saturday that the Afghan president had agreed to send a group of senior politicians to peace talks in Moscow, at which a delegation representing the Taliban would be present.
Representatives from Iran, China, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are expected to attend, officials said, according to Reuters.
Even though Afghan government officials will not attend the Moscow talks, members of the High Peace Council (HPC), an Afghan body overseeing efforts to start peace talks, are expected to attend.