A large attack by the Taliban in western Afghanistan on Thursday killed at least 30 soldiers and police officers, Afghan officials said, in a sign of intensifying spring fighting across the country despite American efforts to reach a peace deal.
Hundreds of Taliban fighters stormed the center of Bala Murghab District in Badghis Province in the predawn hours, according to Abdul Waris Shirzad, the district governor. The district has come under intense insurgent pressure in recent weeks, with officials warning that it could fall unless reinforcements are sent in.
“No one is hearing our voice; no reinforcements arrived yet,” said Mr. Shirzad, who confirmed that 30 police officers and soldiers had died in the Taliban raid.
He said the insurgents had surrounded police forces in the governor’s office and soldiers on an army base. “If the government does not send more forces, there will be a disaster in the district,” he added.
Jamshid Shahabi, a spokesman for the governor of Badghis, said “both sides suffered casualties” in the attack. He did not provide casualty figures, but added, “The security situation is very bad there.”
The Taliban attacks are intensifying at a time when Zalmay Khalilzad, the American special envoy, is visiting Afghanistan to build a national consensus on the peace talks with the insurgents. Although the Americans have made progress in negotiations over two components of a deal, including withdrawing American troops from the country and barring terrorist groups from staging attacks on the United States and its allies from Afghan soil, the next steps in the peace process have proved difficult.
Although the insurgents have shown flexibility in meeting Afghan officials as part of a larger informal delegation to break the ice, the Taliban have so far refused to meet directly with the Afghan government, and President Ashraf Ghani has demanded that his government play a central role in the talks. The tense relationship between Mr. Ghani’s government and the United States in recent weeks has not helped the situation.
The Taliban have made inroads into Bala Murghab District, reaching its bazaar and attacking five security outposts. Twenty-one soldiers were taken prisoner by the insurgents during the attack on Thursday, according to a member of the Afghan Parliament, Ziauddin Akazi, who is from the same district. “The district will collapse to the Taliban if reinforcement does not arrive,” he stressed.
Qais Mangal, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense, said of the Taliban offensive, “Afghan forces retreated from several outposts to avoid civilian casualties.”
On Thursday, the Afghan Air Force launched airstrikes against the Taliban around the district, and the insurgents suffered heavy casualties, Mr. Mangal said.
Violence also erupted in northern Afghanistan on Thursday. In Baghlan Province, a doctor, Sayid Ali Ayat, was killed and 18 civilians wounded — including two women and two children — when explosives went off in a health facility in Pul-i-Kumri City, the provincial capital, local officials said.
Dr. Ayat, 50, had been the only psychiatrist in the provincial hospital. Their numbers are already low amid high demand in a country awash in post-traumatic stress syndrome. There are only three other psychiatrists in the province, according to Abdul Halim Ghafari, the deputy of the provincial health department.
In Jowzjan Province, the Taliban attacked a security outpost in Faizabad District before dawn on Thursday, killing six police officers and wounding another. Local authorities said that four Taliban fighters were killed in the clashes.
Last Monday, dozens of Taliban fighters also attacked security outposts in the district, killing 15 soldiers and wounding seven others, local officials said. Two soldiers were taken prisoner by the insurgents.
Mohammad Saber contributed reporting from Herat, Afghanistan, Mujib Mashal from Kabul and Najim Rahim from Kunduz.