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After assault on Afghan base with 23 deaths, Taliban to resume peace talks with US on Saturday

By Mansoor Faizy

KABUL: The Taliban fighters have been carrying out attacks daily in different parts of Afghanistan while its leader is engaged with US special envoy for Afghanistan Reconciliation in peace talks to end the 18-year long war.

On Friday early morning, again the Taliban fighters attacked an Afghan army military base in the southern Helmand province that has been successfully repelled by the Afghan army soldiers, but it caused casualty to the Afghan security forces.

Ministry of Defense said that attack was conducted by 20 assailants, where 8 of them were suicide bombers, where the Afghan security forces killed all of them.

“In this cowardly attack that last 16-hour, unfortunately 23 brave security forces embraced martyrdom, and 16 others received injures,” the ministry added in a statemen.

The attack was against the 215 Maiwand Corps inside Camp Shorab. Provincial authority says the attack was ended at around 07:20 Friday evening with killing all the attackers. Helmand’s governor’s media office in a statement said 20 attackers have been killed, while putting death tool of the security forces to five.

“The attack was repelled by the brave Afghan Security Forces,” the US Forces-Afghanistan spokesman Col. Dave Butler said in a tweet on Friday morning, adding “the Afghan Security Forces fight for the people of Afghanistan and they are the defenders of the people”.

A Taliban group spokesman Yousuf Ahmadi claimed that 70 American troops and 100 Afghan security forces were killed, and dozens others received injuries in the attack.

He also made other tall claims as usual the terrorist group does as part of their propagandas, but what US and Afghan officials both say Taliban’s attack ward off successfully and clearance operation has already kicked off.

The attack comes a day after the US envoy leading Doha peace talks said the negotiations had been put on hold until tomorrow (Saturday).

Emerging from three solid days of talks with the Taliban in Doha. Meetings were productive. We continue to take slow, steady steps toward understanding and eventually peace, US envoy Zalamy Khalilzad tweeted on Thursday.

“Both sides will take the next two days for internal deliberations, with plans to regroup on Saturday. All four key issues remain on the table. As talks continue in Doha, there is also progress on forming a national team in Kabul ready to engage in intra-Afghan dialogue and talks with the Taliban.”

This was most optimistic tweet ever, where as he hinted toward forming team in Kabul to lead the talks with Taliban, and a first indication of direct talks between Afghan government and Taliban to be held soon.

Past rounds of talks had focused onus troop withdrawal in exchanged for guarantees from Taliban sides of no attacks against US and other countries.

However, when Taliban claimed to have killed American soldiers besides Afghan forces, it has totally casted shadow over what pessimistically could be taken as a failure of Doha talks. When there is progress in talks between US and Taliban officials, why after meeting such a big coordinated attack against US and Afghan forces engineered by Taliban.

Two factors lay behind; first, the Taliban by conducted more attacks against Afghan and US installations is willing to have upper hand in peace talks with the US envoy. And second, is the matter of frustration as they see no more Doha talks as a platform to end the war.

All hopes pinned on today’s (Saturday) meeting, where Khalilzad must take the attack with Taliban leaders including the groups number second leader, Mullah Ghani Baradar, and warned them of such attacks in the future with pitfall consequences if they group see a negotiating settlement to the conflict. He must also go for inquiry that who ordered the attack as there were 2-day break before to kick off another round of talks.

Helmand is among unrest provinces in the southeast, where its nine districts out of 16 are under controlled or influenced by the group.

Mansoor Ahmad Faizy is Editor-in-Chief in Afghanistan Times Daily, and a member of Rana Think Tank. You can follow him on twitter @Mansoorfaizy001

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