Khalilzad reacts to latest Taliban attack on Kunduz city

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The Taliban launched a major attack on the city of Kunduz on Saturday, as negotiators from the group continued talks with American officials aimed at ending the U.S.'s longest war.

"Security forces are repelling the Taliban attack on some parts of Kunduz city".

Much of Kunduz province is controlled by the Taliban, and the provincial capital, which is one of the largest cities in Afghanistan, has fallen to the militants twice in recent years.

A USA service member was killed in Afghanistan during combat operations, the NATO-led Resolute Support mission said in a statement on Friday, as the United States seeks to reach a negotiated end to the almost 18-year-old war.

Kunduz fell to the Taliban in 2015 and has come under attack several times since then.

Zabihullah Mujahed, a Taliban spokesman, denied the militants were using civilians as shields, and claimed at least 10 security forces were killed and many more captured in the ongoing clashes. Afghan forces had cleared Kunduz of Taliban fighters by Saturday evening, he said, though fighting continued around the outskirts of the city.

"The Taliban attacked Kunduz today and caused damages to civilians and their houses".

Afghan officials confirmed casualties among security forces but did not say how many.

"We could very easily attack but we don't want civilian casualties", Ahmadzai said.

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A U.S. -Taliban accord would not in itself end the fighting in Afghanistan but it would open the way for talks between the Taliban and the government in Kabul for a wider peace agreement.

Sources in the Taliban said Trump's statement that the United States will continue to maintain a force in Afghanistan even after a deal was reached was unacceptable to them as they demand a complete pull-out of foreign forces from the country.

"In a way we are thankful that the Taliban accepted what they were told", he said.

Afghan officials say 60 Taliban fighters have been killed in the assault. The Afghan presidential spokesperson said Khalilzad will visit Kabul at some point to brief the government on the details.

More than 2,400 USA service members have died in Afghanistan since the US -led invasion in late 2001 to topple the Taliban, whose government had harbored al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Trump has made clear he wants to end the USA troop presence in Afghanistan, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday said he had orders to scale back American forces by the 2020 election. Al-Qaeda insurgents used Afghanistan as a base from which to plan the September 11, 2001, attack on the United States.

Despite peace talks, fighting between the Taliban and Afghan forces, who are backed by US air power, has not subsided.

"We have lost the city in the past and know the Taliban can attack again from insecure areas", a legislator from Kunduz, Fatima Azizi, told the local Ariana television channel on Saturday. The insurgents pushed into the city center a year later, briefly raising their flag before gradually being driven out again.

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