KABUL: At least 14 Afghan army soldiers were killed in Takhar province after midnight on Thursday in the latest attack by Taliban armed group, which has killed or wounded dozens of security forces this week.
Six soldiers are missing and 16 others wounded in the attack on military base in Khawja Ghar district, provincial council member Mohammad Azam Afzali told Al Jazeera.
In the neighbouring Kunduz province, at least seven army soldiers were killed and several others were wounded on Wednesday, Afzali added.
Also on Thursday, Taliban attacked and overran two checkposts in Ghazni’s Jaghori district, killing several local police forces, as fighting continued.
Jaghori resident Asad Arman told DPA news agency that army commandos had reached the district by helicopter early Thursday, forcing the fighters to retreat.
Jaghori, a predominantly Hazara Shia dominated district, is one of the safest in the province, which has come under Taliban attacks following the armed group’s assault on neighbouring Uruzgan province.
On Sunday, at least 13 policemen were killed in Khogyani district after Taliban fighters attacked their checkpost, according to Ghazni governor spokesman Arif Noori.
Taliban fighters have ramped up attacks on Afghan security forces and government facilities in recent months, leaving troops thinly stretched throughout the country.
A US watchdog agency said last week that the Afghan government was struggling to recover control of districts lost to the Taliban while casualties among security forces had reached record levels.
The government had control or influence over 65 percent of the population but only 55.5 percent of Afghanistan’s 407 districts, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction said in a report.
The latest phase of Afghanistan’s decades-old war began in 2001, when the US-led troops overthrew the Taliban government in the wake of the September 11 attacks on the United States.
Moscow peace talks
Amid escalation of violence across the country, Russia is facilitating a peace conference on Friday attended by officials from the High Peace Council (HPC) and members of the Taliban group based in Doha, Qatar.
The HPC established by the Afghan government told local media “that the meeting is aimed at brokering talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban”.
Russia invited 12 countries and the Taliban, but the United States and the US-backed Afghan government have stayed away from the peace talks.
Representatives from Iran, China, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are expected to attend, officials said.
Diplomatic engagement between the Taliban and the US gained momentum last month after the US special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, met Taliban leaders in Qatar.__Al Jazeera