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At Least 10 Afghan Security Forces Killed In Two Separate Attacks

At least 10 members of Afghan security forces have been killed in separate attacks in western and southern Afghanistan, officials say.

Militants attacked a security checkpoint in Farah Province early on March 14, killing at least eight security forces and wounding a number of others, according to provincial council members.

Provincial council head Farid Ahmad Bakhtawar said that at least 15 Taliban insurgents were also killed in the attack in the outskirts of the western province’s capital, also named Farah.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the assault, which came after a series of deadly attacks by the Taliban in the province over the past week.

Another provincial council member, Abdul Samad Salehi, said that four of those killed were from the intelligence service and six were police officers.

"We have asked the central government for additional troops before Farah city falls into the hands of the Taliban," Salehi said.

Other council members said the assault lasted for three hours.

In Helmand Province, a suicide truck bomb struck a checkpoint, killing at least two border police officers, said provincial police chief General Abdul Ghafar Safi.

He said another three police officers were wounded in the attack in the southern province's Nad Ali district. The Taliban claimed responsibility.

The Western-backed government in Kabul has been struggling to fend off the Taliban and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO troops in 2014.

As the United States is putting new resources into the more than 16-year Afghan war, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis traveled to Kabul on March 13 for a previously unannounced visit.

Before landing in the Afghan capital, Mattis told reporters that the United States was picking up signs of interest from groups of Taliban fighters in exploring the possibility of talks to end the violence.

"It may not be that the whole Taliban comes over in one fell swoop. That would be a bridge too far. But there are elements of the Taliban clearly interested in talking to the Afghan government," he said.

As part of its new regional strategy announced in August 2017, Washington has stepped up assistance to the Afghan military in a bid to break the stalemate and force the militants to the negotiating table.

But the Taliban has so far ruled out direct talks with Kabul and insisted it would only negotiate with the United States, which it calls a "foreign occupying force." The Taliban also says that NATO forces must withdraw before negotiations can begin.

The United States has refused to withdraw troops as demanded by the Taliban and has insisted that the Afghan government must play a lead role in peace negotiations.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, AFP, and dpa