Taliban attacks US-Afghan base in Helmand

Afghanistan and India Old friends and continuing partners

Afghanistan and India Old friends and continuing partners

Army Col. David Butler, a U.S. military spokesman in Kabul, said that U.S. Marines living in another part of the base responded to a smaller attack while Afghans fought off the main one.

The complex attack on Camp Shorab in the largely insurgent-controlled Helmand province occurred during a pause in peace talks in Doha, which could bring an eventual end to US military involvement in the country.

Some officials believe continued funding for the Afghan military is more important than an enduring global troop presence for the survival of Afghanistan's government.

The 215 Maiwand Army Corps came under attack in the early hours of Friday, said a senior security official in Kabul, adding the attack was the Taliban's third attempt to overrun Camp Shorab, a strategic military installation, in the past 48 hours. Clearance operations were ongoing, he said.

The Taliban said their fighters were engaged in clashes with U.S. and Afghan forces at the Shorab airbase in Helmand province.

The United States has about 14,000 troops in Afghanistan as part of a NATO-led mission, known as Resolute Support, and a separate US counter-terrorism mission largely directed against militant groups like Islamic State and al Qaeda.

As a prerequisite for total withdrawal, the USA reportedly seeks guarantees from the Taliban that they will take responsibility for thwarting terrorist groups that may seek to attack the United States and who view Afghanistan as a safe haven.

A top Afghan commander at the base had been killed, along with other members of the security forces, a military source told the USA government-funded radio station. The militant group often embellishes its claims.

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Zalmay Khalilzad, the special USA envoy for Afghan peace, said earlier this week that he expected the talks to be "significant", in part because Taliban leaders had sent a key official, Abdul Ghani Baradar, to head their delegation.

USA special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad called the latest meetings in the months-long diplomatic push "productive", saying the two sides "will take the next two days for internal deliberations, with plans to regroup on Saturday".

However, US officials close to the talks warned journalists that due to his erratic nature, US President Donald Trump may cancel the plan at any moment.

The Taliban control or contest more than half of Helmand's districts and regularly deliver heavy blows to Afghan forces, who have been struggling to hold off insurgents across Afghanistan since taking the lead from North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces in late 2014.

Helmand has been the site of some of war's heaviest fighting and has suffered the second-most insurgent attacks in recent months, behind Farah, said a report by the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction in January.

The base holds significance in the USA military because it was once the co-located home of Camp Leatherneck, a vast base from which thousands of Marines at a time deployed across Helmand during the height of the troop surge in the Obama administration.

After U.S. and coalition combat operations ended in 2014, security in the province faltered.

A local security official speaking to VOA on condition of anonymity confirmed the death of at least 25 Afghan troops.

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