Scores of Taliban militants have been killed in clashes with Afghan government forces in the militants’ southern stronghold of Kandahar.
The Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) said on Sunday that 63 Taliban militants had been killed and 29 others injured in the southern province over the past 72 hours.
Afghan forces countered Taliban attacks in five districts surrounding Kandahar with heavy air and ground assaults, the Ministry of Defense said in a statement.
The escalation of violence comes as the US is withdrawing its forces from Afghanistan 19 years after invading the country in October 2001.
On Saturday, USFOR-A, the contingent of US forces in Afghanistan, confirmed having conducted an airstrike on Taliban positions after the militants attacked an Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) checkpoint in Kandahar’s Zhari district.
Mohammad Naeem Wardak, a spokesman for the Taliban, said in a statement on his Twitter page that US airstrikes in Kandahar had killed 10 civilians and destroyed many residential homes.
US forces in Afghanistan dismissed the claims of civilian casualties, saying the airstrike was in accordance with a US-Taliban deal.
“This strike in defense of the ANDSF is IAW with the US-Taliban agreement. The Taliban’s claim of civilian casualties are false,” Spokesman Col Sonny Leggett tweeted.
Meanwhile, separate clashes in Uruzgan province left more casualties among Taliban militants.
“10 Taliban were killed and 10 others were wounded in Dehrawood district of Uruzgan province, yesterday,” the MoD tweeted, adding that a large militant cache of weapons and munitions had been destroyed in the operation.
10 Taliban were killed and 10 others were wounded in Dehrawood district of Urzgan province, yesterday. Also, a large amount of their weapons and ammunitions were destroyed during reciprocal attacks of ANA. Ministry of Defense, Afghanistan (@MoDAfghanistan) December 13, 2020
In a separate incident, at least one person was killed and another injured after a series of rockets hit Kabul on Saturday.
Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry announced that four rockets had been fired from the Afghan capital’s Labe Jar neighborhood, of which two landed near Kabul airport.
The US overthrew the Taliban regime shortly after the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan. But US forces have remained bogged down there through the presidencies of George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and now Donald Trump.
Nearly two decades on, Washington is seeking a truce with the militants, who now control or have influence over vast swathes of Afghanistan’s territory.