KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — At least 25 police and army personnel were killed in an apparent insider attack at a joint military and police base early Friday, Afghan officials said. The attack took place in southern Zabul province, a Taliban stronghold.
Assadullah Kakar, a provincial council member, said the Taliban carried out the attack, but with the assistance of Afghan police and army personnel inside the base.
Ministry of Interior spokesman Tariq Arian, however, said the attack was still under investigation and refused to give the numbers of casualties or details of the incident.
No one immediately took responsibility, but Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed said he would look into the allegation..
The attack comes as the U.S. and NATO start a staged withdrawal of their troops, in keeping with a peace deal signed last month between the United States and the Taliban.
The troop pullout is tied to promises by the Taliban to fight terrorism, including the Islamic State group’s affiliate, which is headquartered in eastern Afghanistan.
However, Washington has struggled to get Afghanistan’s squabbling politicians to unite behind a single leader to start intra-Afghan negotiations, a critical next step in the U.S.-Taliban deal.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his rival in last year’s presidential polls both declared themselves president in rival ceremonies earlier this month. Since then, Washington’s peace envoy who brokered the U.S.-Taliban deal has been meeting the two leaders seeking a compromise. Until now the squabbling has only intensified.
Meanwhile, Washington has also been critical of the violent attacks carried out be the Taliban targeting Afghan security forces but not U.S. or NATO personnel.