This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
Afghan officials say Taliban militants have killed at least 18 people and wounded eight others in two fresh attacks in Takhar and Nangarhar provinces.
The insurgents attacked pro-government militia forces in Takhar’s Khwaja Bahauddin district overnight, killing at least 13 members of the force, local police said on August 20.
Security sources said one army soldier was also killed and two others wounded when they went to support the militia forces that came under Taliban attack.
The officials said the clash in Takhar lasted several hours. Many districts in the northeastern province are contested between the militants and government forces.
The Afghan spy agency supports pro-government local militia groups – known as Public Uprising Forces — in remote areas across the country to fight against the Taliban insurgency.
Meanwhile, officials in eastern Nangarhar Province say at least four security officers were killed and two others wounded in an overnight Taliban assault in areas bordering Pakistan.
Attaullah Khogyani, a spokesman for provincial governor said on August 20 that 10 Taliban fighters were also killed in fighting between security forces and the militants.
The latest violence comes as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani urged the Taliban to accept a permanent cease-fire and began peace talks with the government.
But the prospect of intra-Afghan peace talks sought by the United States was thrown into more uncertainty as the government said it would not release the last 320 Taliban prisoners it holds until the militants freed more captured Afghan soldiers.
Kabul has already freed 4,600 Taliban inmates out of the 5,000 pledged in a landmark U.S.-Taliban deal signed in February.
The Taliban says it has freed all 1,000 government prisoners it had pledged in the agreement with the United States.
The prisoner swap was a precondition for launching peace talks.