Taliban gain ground amid international pullout

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Scores of Afghan troops have been killed or wounded as the Taliban step up attacks amid a withdrawal of foreign forces.

Casualties among Afghan troops have been “shockingly high” amid a surge in attacks by Taliban militants in recent days, a senior government official said on Monday.

Fighting that is now raging in 26 of the country’s 34 provinces has killed or wounded at least 150 Afghan troops over the past 24 hours, the officials said in comments carried by Reuters news agency.

The deaths and injuries come as the Taliban, who have been waging an insurgency since being ousted as rulers in a 2001 US-led invasion, exploit the dwindling security brought about by the foreign forces’ withdrawal from the country.

Taliban take more districts

The government says territorial clashes have increased as the US continues to pull out its remaining troops in an operation scheduled to be completed by September 11. Other NATO troops, including German ones, also began officially pulling out of the country on May 1.

According to officials, Taliban insurgents have captured two more districts since the start of the withdrawal, now holding nine from the total of 388 in the country.

Late on Sunday, Taliban fighters took over the Qaisar district of northern Faryab province in an attack that killed and wounded dozens of Afghan security forces, a police official said. Government forces were said to have retreated to a nearby hilltop from which they were still offering resistance on Monday.

The Taliban also took control of Shahrak district in western Ghor province on Sunday evening, again causing a number of casualties among Afghan troops.

The Taliban have stepped up attacks on Afghan forces

Talks stalled

The violence comes as talks between the government and the Taliban largely stall amid mutual accusations of failing to halt attacks against civilians.

Observers fear that if the Taliban regain power in the country, even as part of a power-sharing government, women’s and other civil rights could be endangered by the group’s fundamentalist interpretation of the Islamic faith.

Military experts have warned that the Afghan security forces will have problems fighting back the Taliban without foreign help, being poorly trained and ill-equipped.  

tj/aw (dpa, Reuters)