Kabul, Mar 20 (efe-epa).- At least 20 members of the Afghan security forces were killed on Friday in an apparent insider attack on a security checkpoint in southeastern Zabul province, officials said.
Zabul’s Provincial Council chief Atta Jan Haq Bayan told local broadcaster Tolo News that the attack was executed with the help of “eight policemen who were pro-Taliban,” in which at least 20 personnel from the army and the police had been killed.
The broadcaster, citing sources who did not wish to be named, added that the rogue officers fled after the attack and joined the insurgents, carrying a number of weapons with them.
The Taliban were yet to claim responsibility for the attack, which took place in the early hours of Friday near provincial capital Qalat.
The attack came a day after Afghan Defense Minister Asadullah Khalid urged the Taliban to declare a nationwide ceasefire to check the spread of the new coronavirus in the country, where 22 positive cases have been detected so far.
However, Khalid also announced that the security forces would now abandon their “defensive” status for a more active role to counter increasing violence from the Taliban.
The troops had been in a defensive mode owing to a drop in violent incidents in the run up to the signing of a historic peace agreement between the insurgents and the US on Feb. 29.
The agreement laid out a roadmap for the pull-out of US troops from the war-ravaged country, starting with the withdrawal of 8,600 soldiers within 135 days from the date of signing of the deal.
Currently, some 14,000 US troops remain deployed in the country.
The deal was inked after a seven-day reduction in violence, during which no major security incident was recorded across Afghanistan.
Since then, the Taliban has stopped its attacks on NATO troops but gradually increased armed strikes on the Afghan forces, despite several warnings from the government.
The insurgents and the government remain deadlocked over an agreement regarding swapping of prisoners, which was a part of the US-Taliban agreement and considered crucial for the commencement of the intra-Afghan talks that could usher in peace after nearly two decades of conflict.
This deadlock has delayed the negotiations, which otherwise were scheduled to kick off by Mar. 10 as per the agreement with the US. EFE-EPA