Afghan Officials: Airstrikes Kill up to 50 IS Militants

Authorities in Afghanistan said Saturday coalition airstrikes in an eastern province have killed up to 50 Islamic State militants, while Taliban insurgents have killed at least seven government forces in a western district.

The Defense Ministry said the overnight airstrikes were carried out in coordination with Afghan ground forces and they struck IS training centers in the troubled Chapa Darah district of Kunar province. It asserted foreigners, including Uzbeks and Pakistanis were among the slain militants.

The deputy provincial governor, Gul Mohammad Baidar, told VOA that a key IS commander of Uzbek ethnicity also was among the dead. He confirmed there was no letup in clashes in the district involving Taliban insurgents and IS militants.

U.N. humanitarian agencies have reported the fighting in Chapa Darah has forced thousands of Afghan families in recent weeks to flee to safety.

The Taliban and IS routinely attack each other’s positions in Kunar and parts of neighboring Nangarhar province in their bid to expand their influence. Both of the Afghan provinces border Pakistan.

Separately, officials in the western Afghan province of Badghis confirmed Saturday the Taliban late night stormed security check points in the Qadis district, killing seven police officers and injuring several others.

Authorities in the eastern Ghanzi province said airstrikes by Afghan forces and their international partners Friday night killed eight civilians, and the incident is being investigated.

US-Taliban talks

Meanwhile, American and Taliban negotiators resumed peace talks Saturday in the Qatari capital of Doha after a one-day break, although neither side has reported whether the discussions are making any headway.

Officials said the talks remain focused on when U.S.-led foreign troops will withdraw in return for Taliban assurances that Afghanistan will not be used by transnational militant groups, including al-Qaida and IS.

U.S. chief negotiator, Zalmay Khalilzad, emphasized the need for all parties involved in the Afghan conflict to reduce violence in order to support efforts aimed at reaching a negotiated settlement.

“All sides laying down arms is the outcome of any peace process. All sides agreeing to reduce violence is a necessary step toward achieving that outcome and the morally responsible choice to make. We stand ready,” Khalilzad tweeted Saturday.

In a statement Friday, though, the Taliban again refused to cease hostilities or engage in intra-Afghan peace talks until their ongoing dialogue with Washington produces an agreement on withdrawal of all foreign troops from Afghanistan.

Khalilzad repeatedly has stated that a final deal with the Taliban on troop withdrawal and counterterrorism assurances would require the insurgent group to engage in intra-Afghan dialogue and a comprehensive cease-fire.