MEHTARLAM -- Afghan forces killed dozens of Taliban fighters in fighting across the country over the weekend and Monday (May 24).
The fighting killed at least 50 militants in a provincial capital about 120km from Kabul, according to the Defence Ministry, while dozens more were killing in other parts of the country.
"140 #Taliban were killed and 75 others were wounded in Nangarhar, Zabul, Kandahar, Herat, Badghis, Balkh, Faryab, Jowzjan [Jawzjan], Sir-e Pol [Sar-e-Pul], Helmand, Baghlan, Kapisa and Kabul provinces in #ANDSF [Afghan National Defence and Security Forces] operations during 24 past hours. Additionally, 121 IEDs [improvised explosive devices] were discovered & defused by #ANA [Afghan National Army]," the Defence Ministry said in a tweet Monday (May 24).
Fierce combat erupted late Sunday on the edge of Mehtarlam, a city of about 140,000 people and the capital of Laghman province.
At one point Defence Minister Yasin Zia took personal charge in the field, officials said.
"With the arrival of reinforcements, the enemy has sustained heavy blows," Zia, a former army chief of staff, said in a video message.
An AFP correspondent reported fighting continuing in some parts of Mehtarlam on Monday, adding that hundreds of residents had been displaced.
A student from Mehtarlam, who gave just his first name Zabihullah, said he had to flee when fighting resumed.
The attack on Mehtarlam comes as the Taliban seek to capture new territory.
Mounting Taliban casualties
The ANDSF have continued to receive vital air support from the United States even as US and NATO forces withdraw and hand over key bases.
They have taken the lead in planning and conducting military operations for a year and can independently fight the Taliban, said Fawad Aman, a Defence Ministry spokesman.
In recent weeks, the Taliban have attempted to take over Helmand, Kandahar, Baghlan, Herat, Farah and Ghazni provinces, he said.
Not only have they failed to capture any major city or province, he said May 17, but they have sustained heavy casualties, as the ANDSF killed more than 1,000 of their fighters, commanders and key members.
"The Taliban cannot defeat the ANDSF and absolutely cannot gain power militarily," he said, adding that the more the Taliban increase their attacks, the more fighters they will lose.
"The Taliban must seize the ongoing opportunity for peace; otherwise, they will be eliminated," Aman said.
In a week of fighting in Baghlan province, security forces and public uprising forces killed or wounded more than 130 Taliban members, Baghlan Governor Mohammad Akbar Barakzai said at a news conference May 10.