Taliban kills 14, captures 21 troops in Herat province

The Taliban staged a coordinated attack overnight on two Afghan army outposts in western Herat province, killing 14 Afghan soldiers and taking another 21 captives, a provincial official said on Friday.

Najibullah Mohebi, a member of Herat provincial council, said on Friday that attackers besieged two army outposts late on Thursday in Shindand district. Fighting lasted for six hours before reinforcements arrived and repulsed the insurgents — but not before they captured 21 troops, he said.

However, the Defence Ministry’s spokesman, Ghafor Ahmad Jaweed, put the number of army dead and wounded at 10. The different accounts could not immediately be reconciled.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid posted a video on Twitter allegedly showing the captive soldiers inside a room.

The raid was the latest in a series of daily assaults by insurgents on the country’s beleaguered national security forces.

The surge in violence comes as the United States is pushing for a peaceful resolution of the 17-year conflict while the Taliban have increasingly asserted control over vast tracts of the country. A US Congress-mandated watchdog estimates that nearly half of Afghanistan is either under Taliban control or the militant group’s influence. Washington has committed $4 billion a year to finance, train and outfit Afghan forces.

The US administration is holding direct talks with the Taliban, which was toppled following a US-led invasion in 2001. Taliban officials have held three days of talks with US special representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad in Qatar, aimed at renewing the peace process.

Last month, President Ashraf Ghani formed a 12-member team to hold peace talks with the Taliban as his government tries to bring peace ahead of next year’s presidential elections.

Ghani had earlier said that 28,529 Afghan security forces had been killed since the start of 2015, a figure far higher than anything previously acknowledged.

That is an average of around 20 soldiers killed every day.

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