Taliban, Afghan clash during peace talks


Afghan government forces and Taliban insurgents waged war over the past 24 hours despite US officials saying there was a breakthrough in peace talks to end the 18-year-old conflict.

While negotiators from the warring sides pressed on with meetings in Doha, Qatar, the Taliban and the Afghan government reported fighting on the ground.

The Afghan defence ministry said an air strike killed a senior Taliban commander in northern Balkh province on Thursday.

“As result of a targeted air strike by Afghan air forces, Mawlavi Sardar Mohammad, a key member of the Taliban military commission was killed with eight others,” the ministry said in a statement.

The Taliban did not confirm the air strike.

A Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said the insurgents killed six Afghan soldiers, including two officers, in an attack on a checkpoint in northern Kunduz province.

Afghan, Taliban and US sources said a peace deal could be signed this month, allowing withdrawal of some of 13 000 US troops and thousands of NATO personnel in Afghanistan following the US intervention to oust the Taliban in 2001.

President Donald Trump said there was a “good chance” of reaching an agreement with the Taliban on a reduction of US troops.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said a breakthrough was made in peace talks with the Taliban in recent days and Defence Secretary Mark Esper said they negotiated a proposal for a week-long reduction in violence.

Details about when that would begin were not immediately clear but a Taliban official said it would be this week.