20 Afghan Troops Killed as Taliban Storms Cities

At least 20 Afghan forces were killed by Taliban in simultaneous raids on a provincial capital and district in northern Afghanistan, an official said Tuesday.

The Taliban have stepped up attacks on security forces across the country, slaughtering police and soldiers in record numbers, as the threat of a US drawdown complicates American-led efforts to end the 17-year conflict.

Hundreds of militants were outside Sar-e-Pul city, which provincial governor spokesman Zabihullah Amani said was at risk of falling to the Taliban if reinforcements were not sent.

“The enemy is still amassing forces outside the city,” Amani told AFP.

“We have deployed all the forces available in the city, but no reinforcements have arrived from outside so far.

“The people inside the city are very worried.”

Taliban fighters launched the attacks on Sar-e-Pul and neighboring Sayad district on Monday night, which Amani said were aimed at seizing control of several oil wells on the outskirts of the city.

At least 21 local forces, including police and intelligence, were killed and another 23 wounded in the attacks, Amani said.

“They have attacked the city many times in the past, but this time the threat is more serious,” he said.

The Taliban confirmed the attacks, saying their fighters had captured three checkpoints and killed or wounded 50 members of the security forces.

The militants’ increased aggression on the battlefield coincided with a flurry of diplomatic efforts aimed at bringing the group to the negotiating table.

In recent days, Taliban representatives have met with Iran, as Tehran makes a more concerted and open push for peace ahead of a possible US drawdown.

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