22 Afghan troops killed and 150 captured in Taliban attacks

An overnight Taliban attack on checkpoints in northern Afghanistan killed 22 troops,Al Jazeera reports. Taliban also captured 150 Afghan soldiers after they tried fleeing into neighboring Turkmenistan and were forced back

The Taliban launched the assault late on Saturday against checkpoints manned by police and pro-government forces in Qaisar district, setting off a fierce gun battle that lasted into Sunday morning said Mohammad Tahir Rahmani, the head of the provincial council in the northern Faryab province.

The army sent in reinforcements, who were among those killed. Rahmani said another 20 Afghan forces were wounded in the attack.

In Bala Murghab, in the northwestern province of Badghis, more than 100 Afghan soldiers abandoned their posts amid a weeklong battle with the Taliban, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. About 50 Afghans surrendered, while the rest continued into nearby Turkmenistan, though they were forced “back into Taliban hands” by the end of the day.

The capture of a large number of Afghan soldiers came at the same time as Taliban forces mounted attacks against forces in Faryab, another northern province. And earlier this week, the Taliban attacked an Afghan outpost in Bala Murghab, where they killed or captured an entire company of more than 50 soldiers.

According to The Times, this is the “biggest known capture” of Afghan soldiers in the war. The Taliban has now captured a total of 190 soldiers in the district over the past week. A spokesman for Bagdhis’ provincial governor said another 16 were killed and 20 wounded over the same period.

“The Taliban have gained control of more areas in the district” after stepping up attacks in recent weeks, Rahmani said, adding that troop reinforcements have arrived from the capital, Kabul.

Provincial police spokesman Karim Yuresh confirmed that a large number of Taliban launched attacks in Faryab, but he could not immediately provide more details.

The Taliban spokesman claimed in a tweet that Taliban fighters overran a government base and checkpoint in Qaisar. The Taliban claim 21 soldiers and militiamen, known locally as arbaki were killed. The Taliban said their bodies were left on the battlefield.

Four soldiers were captured alive, the tweet said, the rest escaped. The Taliban say they also captured a tank and many heavy and light weapons in the assault.

The Taliban have posted pictures of captured soldiers on social media early Sunday, that show at least 27 people that appear to be in Taliban custody. The tweet said they captured them within the previous 48 hours.

The Taliban claim they captured 72 soldiers and police and are continuing their advance. The group often inflates casualty figures and exaggerates its successes.

Mohammad Naser Nazari, a provincial council member in Badghis, said the soldiers weren’t allowed to cross into Turkmenistan and their fate remains unknown.

The provincial council chairman, Abdul Aziz Bik said on Sunday that about 50 Afghan border police surrendered to the Taliban, while the remaining 50 continued fighting in the district of Bala Murghab.

“These soldiers have been fighting against the Taliban for years and if they give up, they will be killed by Taliban,” Bik said.

The battles mark the latest setbacks for the country’s battered security forces, who come under daily attack and have suffered staggering casualties in recent years.

Afghan president Ashraf Ghani said in January that more than 45,000 Afghan security forces have been killed since 2014.

The attacks have continued even as the Taliban have been holding direct negotiations with the United States aimed at ending the nearly 18-year war.

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