Taliban say do not want to fight inside Afghanistan's cities

Afghan fighting rages as US forces see exit by end August


Kabul: Officials said on Saturday that hundreds of Taliban fighters had been killed in fierce fighting with government forces in various provinces of Afghanistan. Washington announced that it would complete its withdrawal from the country by the end of August.

Washington’s announcement came after all U.S. and NATO troops withdrew from its main Bagram Air Force Base, where the coalition led an operation against the Taliban and its al-Qaeda allies for two decades.

The Ministry of Defense said on Saturday that more than 300 Taliban fighters had been killed in battles with government forces in the past 24 hours.

Scores were killed in air strikes, including a pre-dawn assault on Saturday, in the southern province of Helmand, where the insurgents and government troops have regularly clashed.

There have been fears that Afghan forces would struggle without the air support that the United States has provided.

“In recent days, the Afghan air force has intensified its air strikes against the Taliban hideouts and the insurgents have suffered casualties,” Attaullah Afghan, a member of Helmand provincial council, told AFP.

The Taliban rejected the government s claims.

Both sides often exaggerate the other’s casualties, and their claims are difficult to independently verify.

However, since the U.S. military finally withdrew about 2,500 soldiers on May 1, due to the faltering peace talks between the two sides, fierce conflicts have occurred in the rugged countryside between the two warring parties.

As a result, the Taliban occupied dozens of areas in fierce attacks against government forces.

The insurgents surrounded almost all major cities in the country and claimed on Saturday that they had occupied seven other areas in the northeastern province of Badakhshan.

Top US envoy to Kabul, Ross Wilson, lashed out at the insurgents.

“The Taliban is using violent propaganda and hate speech to intimidate, threaten & attack Afghans on social media,” Wilson said on Twitter on Saturday.

“Violence and terror cannot create peace.”

The Pentagon pressed on with its withdrawal to end America s longest war.

On Friday, all US and NATO troops left Bagram Air Base, signalling that the military involvement for coalition forces was finally nearing its end.

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