26 Afghan soldiers have been killed and 13 wounded in a Taliban attack on a military base in southern Kandahar province.
The militants “attacked an army camp in Karzali area of Khakrez district of Kandahar last night,” MoD spokesperson General Dawlat Waziri said. Afghan soldiers “bravely resisted”, he added, killing more than 80 insurgents.
Air support was called in, several residents said, though that was not immediately confirmed by officials. The insurgents claimed the attack via their Twitter account.
The resurgent Taliban have been ramping up their campaign against beleaguered government forces, underscoring rising insecurity in the war-torn country during the summer fighting season when the warmer weather tends to spur an increase in militant attacks.
Afghan security forces beset by a high death toll, desertions and nonexistent “ghost soldiers” on the payroll have been struggling to beat back insurgents since US-led NATO troops ended their combat mission in December 2014.
Casualties among Afghan security forces soared by 35 percent in 2016, with 6,800 soldiers and police killed, according to US watchdog SIGAR.
The insurgents have carried out more complex attacks against security forces in 2017, with SIGAR describing troop casualties in the early part of the year as “shockingly high”.
The Taliban have a heavy presence in poppy-growing Kandahar province and have launched repeated attacks on security forces there, including multiple assaults on military bases in May which killed dozens of soldiers.
More than 70 villagers were kidnapped by the Taliban over the weekend, officials said. Seven were found dead and some 30 returned, while Afghan police have launched a search and rescue operation for the remainder of the missing.
Afghan forces now control 59.7% of the country, up from 57.2% the previous quarter, according to SIGAR.
The Taliban and other insurgent groups meanwhile saw their areas of control or influence increase slightly from about 10% to 11.1%.