The Taliban, despite signing a peace deal with the United States, have vowed to keep attacking Afghan governmental forces. Over the weekend and on Friday they did exactly that by ramping up their attacks and targeting a number of Afghan towns and outposts.

They launched an attack on security posts in Bariha, located in the provincial capital of Zabul. Afghan Special Forces responded to the assault and drove it back at great cost to the Taliban, the Afghan army released in a statement.

The statement added that the Special Forces commandos killed four members of the Taliban during the fighting while capturing two vehicles along with some weapons and ammunition and arresting six Taliban. 

Local media reported, quoting Afghan army sources, that Afghan SF commandos counterattacked a Taliban stronghold soon after. According to the same sources, the SF troops conducted an operation against the Taliban in the Baghori area of Zabul late Saturday night, which resulted in five key Taliban commanders killed, and in the arrest of five other suspects of the Bariha attack. The Deputy Spokesman of the Afghan President, Dava Khan Minapal, also reported as such, but as of yet, there is no confirmation. 

Photo of Afghan Special Forces and a militant reportedly killed in the fighting of Zabul: Afghan Defense Ministry.

This comes as the Taliban militants killed at least 27 Afghan security personnel during an insider attack in Zabul province on Friday. In the predawn raid in a joint police/army headquarters in Qalat, infiltrators opened fire on their comrades as they slept. They then fled in two military Humvees and a pickup truck while stealing weapons and ammunition. 

The Dawlatbad district of Faryab province was also attacked on the same day. Attacks followed in Khanabad and Dasht-e Archi districts on Saturday night, and on Sunday the village of Baramzid in Balkh district was assaulted.

During these three days of heightened fighting, the Taliban lost 50 fighters, including local Taliban commander Qari Hafiz; additionally, 37 Taliban were wounded and eight “neutralized”  according to the Afghan forces.

In early March, the Taliban signed a peace deal with Washington that laid the groundwork for the United States to withdraw from the country if the Taliban kept to the peace agreement. However, they vowed that, despite the signing of the peace deal with Washington, they would continue to attack the Afghan forces. And they feel justified in doing so by Kabul’s refusal to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners. 

However, the two sides conducted a teleconference to discuss the release of the prisoners. The sticking point is the timing of the release. The Afghan government wants to release the prisoners in a phased, conditional schedule. The Taliban want all of the prisoners to be released immediately. The two-hour meeting took place over Skype and was moderated by the U.S and Qatar.

“Prisoner releases by both sides is an important step in the peace process, as stated in the U.S.-Taliban agreement,” U.S. special representative Zalmay Khalilzad posted on Twitter saying the coronavirus threat makes the adherence to the prisoner release even more important.

“Everyone clearly understands the coronavirus threat makes prisoner releases that much more urgent,” he said, while adding that “all sides conveyed their strong commitment to a reduction of violence, intra-Afghan negotiations, and a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire”.

But despite the talks, the violence between the Taliban and the Afghan government shows no signs of abating.