Afghan official: Taliban kill 14 troops in western province

Herat provincial council member Najibullah Mohebi says attackers besieged two army outposts late on Thursday in Herat’s Shindand district. (File/AFP)
Updated 07 December 2018
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Afghan official: Taliban kill 14 troops in western province

  • The fighting lasted for six hours before reinforcements arrived and repulsed the insurgents early on Friday — but not before they captured 21 troops
  • No group has taken responsibility for the assault, but authorities blame the Taliban, who are active in the area

KABUL, Afghanistan: The Taliban staged a coordinated attack overnight on two Afghan army outposts in western Herat province, killing 14 Afghan soldiers and taking another 21 captive, a provincial official said Friday, the latest in a series of daily attacks by insurgents on the country’s beleaguered national security forces.
Herat provincial council member Najibullah Mohebi said the assault began late on Thursday in Shindand district. Fighting lasted for six hours before reinforcements arrived and repulsed the insurgents — but not before they captured 21 troops.
However, the Defense Ministry’s spokesman, Ghafor Ahmad Jaweed, put the number of army dead and wounded at 10. The different accounts could not immediately be reconciled.
According to Shindand district chief Hekmatullah Hekmat, as many as 200 Taliban fighters took part in the attack, using rocket-propelled grenade launchers and automatic machine guns.
Hekmat said 30 Taliban were killed in the fighting, which continued sporadically in the area on Friday, mostly about 12 kilometers (7 miles) from the district capital, Shindand, possibly as part of an attempt to disrupt the road linking the district to Herat province, a Taliban heartland.
The area’s remoteness makes it impossible to verify the reports.
The Taliban, who did not claim responsibility for the attack, have been active in the area and have targeted Afghan security forces throughout the country in daily attacks.
The surge in violence comes as the United States is pushing for a peaceful resolution of the 17-year conflict while the Taliban have increasingly asserted control over vast tracts of the country. A US Congress-mandated watchdog estimates that nearly half of Afghanistan is either under Taliban control or the militant group’s influence. Washington has committed $4 billion a year to finance, train and outfit Afghan forces.
The war, America’s longest, has cost the US about $1 trillion since the 2001 overthrow of the Taliban and even though most of the funds have gone for security, the security situation continues to deteriorate in much of the country.
The appointment in September of Afghan-American Zalmay Khalilzad as US special envoy to find a peaceful end to the conflict has accelerated efforts to get both sides to the negotiating table. Khalilzad, who was in Islamabad earlier this week, is currently in Afghanistan on a tour of the region, and will also stop in Moscow and Brussels.


Seoul: North Korea withdrew staff from liaison office

Updated 24 sec ago
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Seoul: North Korea withdrew staff from liaison office

  • The second US-North Korea summit in Vietnam collapsed due to disputes over US-led sanctions on the North
  • The South Korean statement calls the North’s decision “regrettable”

SEOUL: North Korea abruptly withdrew its staff from an inter-Korean liaison office in the North on Friday, Seoul officials said.
The development will likely put a damper on ties between the Koreas and complicate global diplomacy on the North’s nuclear weapons program. Last month, the second US-North Korea summit in Vietnam collapsed due to disputes over US-led sanctions on the North.
Seoul’s Unification Ministry said that North Korea informed South Korea of its decision during a meeting at the liaison office at the North Korean border town of Kaesong on Friday.
The North said it “is pulling out with instructions from the superior authority,” according to a Unification Ministry statement. It didn’t say whether North Korea’s withdrawal of staff would be temporary or permanent.
According to the South Korean statement, the North added that it “will not mind the South remaining in the office” and that it would notify the South about practical matters later. Seoul’s Vice Unification Minister Chun Hae-sung told reporters that South Korea plans to continue to staff the Kaesong liaison office normally and that it expects the North will continue to allow the South Koreans to commute to the office. He said Seoul plans to staff the office with 25 people on Saturday and Sunday.
The South Korean statement calls the North’s decision “regrettable.” It said South Korea urges the North to return its staff to the liaison office soon.
The liaison office opened last September as part of a flurry of reconciliation steps. It is the first such Korean office since the peninsula was split into a US-backed, capitalistic South and a Soviet-supported, socialist North in 1945. The Koreas had previously used telephone and fax-like communication channels that were often shut down in times of high tension.
The town is where the Korea’s now-stalled jointly run factory complex was located. It combined South Korean initiatives, capital and technology with North Korea’s cheap labor. Both Koreas want the US to allow sanctions exemptions to allow the reopening of the factory park, which provided the North with much-needed foreign currency.