Afghan government says Taliban attacking city of Kunduz

Afghan government says Taliban attacking city of Kunduz

The Taliban launched an attack on the northern city of Kunduz early Saturday morning in a violent show of force against the Afghan government even as the group's leaders meet with USA negotiators in Qatar in a bid to finalize a peace deal that could put an end to 18 years of war.

Presidential spokesman Sediq Sediqqi tweeted on Saturday that "Afghan security and defense forces are fully prepared to thwart the Taliban offensive in Kunduz".

Trump says that troops will only be reduced when the Afghan Taliban give a guarantee that its territory will not be used by Al Qaeda or other global militant groups.

The Taliban launched their attack from several points around Kunduz overnight, officials said.

The fighting in Kunduz, a strategic northern city that the Taliban came close to capturing twice in recent years, came as expectations have grown that US and Taliban negotiators in Doha were close to securing an agreement that would see a timetable for the withdrawal of thousands of USA troops.

Taliban and the U.S. officials could not finalise agreement until Friday morning on eighth day of talks in the current round despite high hopes by both the sides to make the deal ready for signing.

However, the security authorities say the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces managed to repel the attack, inflicting heavy casualties on Taliban militants.

Ambassador Khalilzad said in a Twitter post "I raised the Kunduz attack in talks today, telling the Taliban that violence like this must stop".

They continue to train and support Afghan forces fighting the Taliban and a local affiliate of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) group.

Afghan officials confirmed casualties among security forces but did not say how many.

Sources in the Taliban said Trump's statement that the United States will continue to maintain a force in Afghanistan even after a deal was reached was unacceptable to them as they demand a complete pull-out of foreign forces from the country.

"On the one hand they are talking with the United States, on the other hand they are attacking people's houses and villages".

One Afghan analyst, former deputy interior minister Mirza Mohammad Yarmand, said the attack on Kunduz showed the Taliban are not interested in a ceasefire, which has been a key issue in the Qatar talks.

Controversy over troop withdrawal surfaced at a time when the Taliban and the USA are believed to be closer to a peace deal in talks being held in Qatar. The Taliban government had harboured al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

There have now been 18 USA service members killed in Afghanistan this year, 15 of them in combat-related incidents - the highest number recorded by the Defense Department since 2014.

The president on Thursday said the USA plans to withdraw more than 5,000 American troops from Afghanistan - bringing the level to 8,600 - and then will determine further drawdowns, but he offered no timetable. The insurgents pushed into the city center a year later, briefly raising their flag before gradually being driven out again.

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