Afghan official: Taliban strike police checkpoint, kill 10

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Taliban targeted a police checkpoint in Afghanistan’s central province of Day Kundi on Friday, killing at least 10 policemen, provincial officials said as the U.S. envoy for talks with the insurgents pressed ahead with meetings with key players in the conflict.

The governor of Day Kundi, Anwar Rahmati, said that along with the 10 killed, 15 policemen were also wounded in the attack, which took place in the district of Patu. The insurgents also suffered casualties, he said.

However, provincial councilman Ghayrat Jawaheri gave a higher death toll, saying 13 policemen were killed in the attack. The different tolls could not immediately be reconciled.

Also Friday, a second Taliban attack in Day Kundi, this one in Kijran district, left one police officer dead and another wounded, Rahmati said. The district has been “under the attack of the Taliban since at least one month” he added.

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Taliban spokesman Qari Yusouf Ahmadi claimed responsibility for the Patu attack but didn’t immediately comment on the Kijran assault.

The Taliban now effectively control half the country and stage near-daily attacks, mainly targeting Afghan security forces and government officials or those they see as siding with the government. Many civilians caught in the crossfire are also killed.

Since late last year, the insurgents have been meeting with U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad for talks on finding a peaceful resolution to the nearly 18-year war, America’s longest conflict.

Khalilzad has shuttled between Kabul, Islamabad and the Gulf Arab state of Qatar, where the Taliban maintain a political office. The Taliban refuse to negotiate directly with the Kabul government, considering it a U.S. puppet.

On Friday, Khalilzad concluded a two-day visit to Pakistan during which he met with Prime Minister Imran Khan, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and country’s powerful army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa. From Islamabad, he left for Qatar and was expected to be in Doha later in the day for another round of talks with the Taliban.

The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad said Khalilzad “outlined the positive momentum in the Afghan peace process and next steps” in his meetings with Pakistani officials.

“They also discussed the role Pakistan has played in support of the process and additional positive steps Pakistan can take,” the embassy statement said.

Khalilzad has hinted that an agreement between Washington and the Taliban could be reached in the next round of talks.

“In Doha, if the Taliban do their part, we will do ours, and conclude the agreement we have been working on,” he tweeted Wednesday, adding he was “Wrapping up my most productive visit to #Afghanistan since I took this job as Special Rep.”

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Associated Press writer Munir Ahmed in Islamabad contributed to this report.

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