Taliban attacks against Afghan security forces have dramatically increased in last three days, inflicting heavy casualties on both sides.
The Taliban has stopped attacks on international forces as part of a peace deal they signed with the US late last month in Qatar.
Government figures reveal that 14 provinces have witnessed heavy clashes between the Afghan security forces and the Taliban in last two days.
Three attacks happened in Kunduz on Saturday evening, according to a Ministry of Defense statement, which also said that 27 Taliban fighters were killed in the clashes. Kunduz police said four security force members were also killed.
“The security forces were in the 'active defensive mode' against Taliban attacks, and the Taliban suffered 24 dead and two wounded, and, unfortunately, we also had four casualties,” Kunduz Police Chief Bashir Rasheed said.
Other provinces that have witnessed conflicts include Nangarhar, Ghazni, Herat, Helmand, Zabul, Kandahar, Samangan, Balkh, Sar-e-Pul, Jawzjan, Faryab, Baghlan, Badghis and Ghor.
The Afghan forces' "active defensive mode," and previous "defensive mode" followed a 7-day reduction in violence at the end of February that culminated in the signing of a US-Taliban deal, which was intended to lead the way towards intra-Afghan talks and ceasefire. Instead, the country has seen a return to violence.
“The Taliban launched attacks in Dasth-e-Archi and Khan Abad districts, and they planned an attack in Imam Sahib district. They had also planned attacks in Zabul and Kandahar but the security forces inflicted heavy losses on them,” said Fawad Aman, a spokesman for the Defense Ministry.
The Afghan government sees the increase in Taliban attacks as a breach of the US-Taliban agreement.
“Taliban ‘barbaric slaughter’ does not show the group’s goodwill. From our side, all moves have been made from the position of goodwill,” said Waheed Omer, a presidential advisor.
Another attack, which involved "enemy infiltrators," left at least 20 members of the Afghan army and police dead. The attack happened in Zabul early on Friday morning. Local officials said the attack was carried out by the Taliban. The Taliban has neither rejected nor claimed responsibility for the attack.
“What was the logic behind the operation, when the attack (by the Taliban) was made? What is the duty of the intelligence apparatus? How come they could not prevent that attack?” asked Zahra Tokhi, an MP from Zabul.
A source within the Taliban said the intensity in violence is a response to the delay in a planned prisoner release by the Afghan government. The release of up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners is also part of the US-Taliban deal.
The Afghan government has agreed to free up to 1,500 Taliban prisoners, but at a gradual pace and based on conditions. The release of the remaining amount, according to the government, will be discussed during the intra-Afghan negotiations.
“Delaying the Taliban prisoner release has delayed the intra-Afghan negotiations and has intensified the conflict,” said Khalil Safi, former country director of Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, an international crisis group.