Sat, 31 Oct 2020

Fierce fighting between Afghan forces and Taliban militants has left at least 20 government troops dead, even as peace talks continued in an effort to end the 19-year war.

The fighting, in which 17 members of the Afghan security forces were wounded, took place following overnight militant attacks in the eastern Nangarhar Province.

Nangarhar governor spokesman Ataullah Khogyani told the AFP news agency that around 30 Taliban fighters died in the clashes, although the militant group has not commented.

Acting Defense Minister Asadullah Khalid said on September 17 that he hoped ongoing peace talks in Qatar would be successful, but warned the Taliban against using force to achieve their goals.

'If the enemy is thinking that they can conquer everything by force, it is a dream, it is a fantasy, it is impossible and it is madness,' Khalid said.

The peace talks, part of a February agreement between the Taliban and Washington, began in Qatar on September 12 following a lengthy dispute over prisoner swaps.

The Afghan government and its allies, including NATO and the United States, are calling for the Taliban to agree to a cease-fire to help advance what are expected to be long and grinding negotiations to end the conflict.

The Taliban have not agreed to a cease-fire and have conducted near daily attacks on Afghan security forces since the United States and the militants struck the February agreement that could see foreign troops exit Afghanistan.

Negotiations are initially expected to focus on technical details such as schedules for the talks and a code of conduct.

Negotiators are due to discuss the cease-fire, the rights of women and minorities, and the disarming of tens of thousands of Taliban fighters and militias loyal to warlords, some of them aligned with the government.

With reporting by dpa and AFP

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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