Checkpoint attack kills 15 in Afghanistan

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An early morning attack on an army checkpoint in northern Afghanistan on Tuesday killed at least 15 security forces local officials said on Tuesday, the latest in an escalating series of insurgent attacks.

An earlier report from the defense ministry stated that the morning attack killed 7 Afghan soldiers. The ministry tends not to provide exact figures on its casualties sustained in fighting with the Taliban.

The ministry said in a statement that the “enemy” attack in Balkh province’s district of Dawlat Abad also wounded six other members of the security forces - three soldiers and three intelligence agents.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack but the wording of the statement indicated that the authorities blame the Taliban, who are active in the district. An investigation is underway, the statement added.

Despite a winter lull in fighting due to heavy snowfall in the mountains where the Taliban typically rest and regroup ahead of their annual spring offensive, assaults on vulnerable security checkpoints continue across the country.

As Afghan security force casualties mounted this year, the government pulled back from hundreds of checkpoints in isolated areas that acted as a magnet for Taliban attacks.

The Taliban now control or hold sway over practically half of Afghanistan but continue to stage near-daily attacks targeting Afghan and US forces, as well as government officials - even as they hold peace talks with a US envoy tasked with negotiating an end to the 18-year conflict, America’s longest war. Scores of Afghan civilians are also killed in the crossfire or by roadside bombs planted by militants.

On Monday, an American soldier was killed in combat in northern Kunduz province. The Taliban claimed they were behind a fatal roadside bombing that targeted American and Afghan forces.