Taliban fighters pile pressure on Afghan government forces in west

KABUL: Taliban fighters have stepped up pressure on Afghan forces in the western province of Badghis, killing 20 soldiers and capturing 20, an official said on Tuesday, as the militants make advances even as they hold peace talks with US officials.
A large number of Taliban insurgents launched attacks on several army posts in the province’s Bala Murghab district, beginning on Saturday night, said Qais Mangal, spokesman for the defence ministry in Kabul.
“The fighting is still on,” Mangal said, adding that the Taliban had overrun four posts and government reinforcement backed by air support had been sent to prevent the whole area from falling to the insurgents.
A member of the Badghis provincial council, Abdul Aziz Beg, said 20 soldiers had been killed, 10 wounded and 20 captured by the hardline group.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attacks in Badghis, which is on the border with Turkmenistan. Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi said 20 soldiers had been killed, 28 captured and a large supply of weapons and ammunition seized.
The Taliban, ousted in 2001, say they are fighting to expel foreign troops, topple the Western-backed Afghan government and restore their version of religious law.
Talks with US officials to end the war continued on Tuesday in Qatar, with the focus on the withdrawal of foreign troops, a guarantee Afghanistan will not be used as a springboard for militant attacks and a ceasefire.
The Taliban have refused to talk to Afghan government officials, labelling them a puppet of the United States. Southeast of the Afghan capital, Kabul, in Ghazni city, an air strike on a vehicle killed seven Taliban on Tuesday, including a commander, said Mohammad Arif Noori, spokesman for Ghazni’s provincial governor.