KABUL (Dispatches) – Afghan government forces and Taliban militants have waged war against each other in the past 24 hours despite U.S. officials claiming there had been a breakthrough in recent days in 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 both reported fighting on the ground.
The Afghan defense ministry said an air strike had killed a senior Taliban commander in northern Balkh province on Thursday evening.
"As result of a targeted air strike by Afghan air forces, Mawlavi Sardar Mohammad, a key member of the Taliban military commission was killed along with eight others,” the ministry said in a statement.
The Taliban did not confirm the air strike.
A Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said the militants had killed six Afghan soldiers, including two officers, in an attack on a checkpoint in northern Kunduz province.
Afghan, Taliban and U.S. sources said a deal could be signed this month, allowing a withdrawal of some of 13,000 U.S. troops and thousands of other NATO personnel that remain in Afghanistan following the U.S. invasion of the country in 2001.
U.S. President Donald Trump claimed on Thursday there was a "good chance” of reaching an agreement with the Taliban on a reduction of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
Details about when that was set to begin were not immediately clear but a Taliban official said it would be this week.
Attacks in Afghanistan jumped to record levels in the last quarter of 2019 compared with previous years.