KABUL — Taliban fighters launched a wave of attacks against security outposts in the east and south of Afghanistan over the last two days, even as efforts to jump-start peace talks were renewed. The violence left 14 police dead and 10 others wounded, officials said Friday.
Recent overtures by the U.S. administration indicating a willingness to concede to the Taliban's long-standing demand for direct talks has increased expectations of progress toward a peaceful end to the protracted violence.
Despite that, insurgents have carried out waves of assaults against the Afghan National Security Forces that have left scores dead in recent weeks.
The Taliban issued a statement earlier this week ordering fighters not to attack civilians. This wasn't the first such order and in the past similar ones did not put an end to civilian casualties, but it comes amid the most significant and wide-reaching attempt yet at kick-starting peace negotiations.
A Taliban representative tells The Associated Press the group has yet to receive a specfic offer of talks from Washington. The Taliban have been demanding direct talks to discuss foreign troop withdrawal as well as to know U.S. concerns about their involvement in a future Afghan administration and put those concerns to rest.
The Taliban representative spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media.
When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan before the 2001 U.S.-led assault that followed the terrorist attacks on the United States, Taliban leaders complained that a powerful U.S. would never accept their presence in Afghanistan.
Taliban officials say they want direct talks with the U.S. to address their concerns and get Washington's guarantees, which they say is necessary because the Afghan government acts on the instruction of Washington.
In an International Crisis Group (ICG) report released Friday the organization called for talks, welcomed the U.S. offer of direct talks and noted that a brief cease-fire during the Muslim holiday of Eid-al-Fitr last month showed that both sides in the conflict had control over their fighters in that they successfully ended hostilities. The Taliban and government declared cease-fires independent of the other.
But for now, the violence continues.
In eastern Ghazni province, District Gov. Saeeb Khan Elham said Friday that insurgents launched a wave of attacks on compounds and police security posts in the Qarabagh district late the night before.
He said government forces meant to reinforce the district were attacked in a Taliban ambush that included roadside mines and were unable to help.
Zabihullah Mujahid, spokesman for the Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack in a telephone interview with AP. He said 16 police were killed and a government compound in the district damaged.
In southern Zabul province, deputy provincial council member Asadullah Kakar said Taliban fighters attacked several security posts in Share Safa district Thursday killing six police.
Another three police were wounded and the Taliban escaped with ammunition and weapons.
Gannon reported from Islamabad, Pakistan.
Amir Shah And Kathy Gannon, The Associated Press