Taliban storm checkpoint and kill at least 15 policemen in northern Afghanistan

The multipronged attack on the checkpoint in the Ali Abad district of northern Kunduz province began late on Monday

epa07939218 Afghan policemen attend a training session in Kandahar, Afghanistan, 21 October 2019. According to the United States' Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, the war in the country has remained stagnant, with the Taliban controlling around 40 percent of the country.  EPA/MUHAMMAD SADIQ
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The Taliban stormed a checkpoint in northern Afghanistan, killing at least 15 policemen in the latest attack by insurgents, an Afghan provincial official said on Tuesday.

The multipronged attack on the checkpoint in the Ali Abad district of northern Kunduz province began late on Monday night and set off an hours-long gun battle, said Ghulam Rabani Rabani, a provincial council member. Along with the 15 policemen killed, two other officers were wounded in the assault, he said.

The attack came as Afghan troops have been battling the Taliban for the past few weeks in Kunduz's Dashti Archi and Imam Sahib districts, Mr Rabani said. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the checkpoint attack.

The Taliban have a strong presence in Kunduz and are in control in several of the province's districts.

The provincial capital, the city of Kunduz, briefly fell to the Taliban in 2015, before the insurgents withdrew in the face of a Nato-backed Afghan offensive. The city is a strategic crossroads with easy access to much of northern Afghanistan and the country's capital, Kabul, about 335 kilometres away.

The Taliban pushed back into the city centre again a year later, briefly raising their flag before gradually being driven out again. The last time, the insurgents launched another attempt to overrun the city in August but were repelled.

The Taliban now control nearly half of Afghanistan and have been relentless in their near-daily attacks targeting Afghan security forces, attacks that inflict heavy casualties. The fighting has also killed scores of civilians.

President Donald Trump, since his 2016 presidential campaign, has spoken of a need to withdraw US troops from the "endless war" in Afghanistan. He has complained that the US has been serving as policemen in Afghanistan and says that's not the American military's job.

The US has about 14,000 American troops in Afghanistan as part of the American-led coalition. US forces are training and advising Afghan forces and conducting counterterrorism operations against extremists.

Mr Trump had ordered a troop withdrawal in conjunction with the peace talks that would have left about 8,600 American forces in the country.

Last month, US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad had a preliminary peace deal with the Taliban, but a surge in Taliban violence and the death of an American soldier prompted Trump to cancel a secret Camp David meeting where the peace deal would have been finalised and declare the tentative agreement dead.