Taliban forces have taken control of a district headquarters in Afghanistan’s northeastern province of Badakhshan, an overnight development that was followed on March 28 by an announcement that the militant group will not negotiate with a team recently unveiled by the Afghan government.
The district headquarters in Yumgan was overrun by Taliban fighters after heavy fighting, resulting in an undetermined number of casualties, provincial councilors told the German dpa news agency.
Four villages in neighboring Jurm district were also taken by the Taliban, according to the councilors.
The militant group followed up on the development by announcing that it is refusing to deal with the 21-member team approved on March 26 by the Afghan government in an effort to end the country’s 18-year-old war.
The team is led by Masoom Stanekzai, the former head of head of Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS), and includes politicians, former officials, and representatives of civil society. Five members are women.
Under a deal signed by the United States and the Taliban in Doha on February 29, Taliban representatives agreed to commit to direct talks with the Afghan government.
In return for the start of talks and a series of security commitments from the Taliban, all U.S. troops and other foreign coalition forces are meant to withdraw from Afghanistan within 14 months.
U.S. envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad had congratulated Afghan political and civil society leaders for forming what he called an “inclusive negotiating team.”
The Taliban long controlled the Yumgan and Jurm districts of Badakhshan Province until government forces retook them late in 2019.
Yumgan is close to the district of Kuran wan Munjan, which the Taliban took this month after days of clashes with Afghan forces.