- Associated Press - Friday, April 5, 2019

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - The Taliban besieged an Afghan government and army compound in a remote western province for a second day Friday, killing at least 12 more troops, according to local officials who issued a dramatic warning, saying those inside the compound were running out of ammunition.

The latest fatalities brought the overall death toll for the assault in Badghis province to at least 32 Afghan soldiers and policemen. Many more have been wounded and the area is cut off, said Mohammad Nasir Nazari, a provincial councilmember.

Nazari said that according to soldiers inside the base in the district of Bala Murghab, roughly 2,000 Taliban fighters are involved in the attack, with about 600 Afghan troops and members of the security forces inside.

“They are running out of everything - ammunition, water and food,” said Nazari.

Abdul Waris Sherzad, a district chief, said local officials and residents were disappointed that NATO forces and the Afghan government have not helped.

But Defense Ministry spokesman Qais Mangal denied that, saying reinforcements and supplies have been airlifted to Badghis the previous day and that more would be dispatched on Friday.

The brazen Taliban attack first began before dawn on Thursday, when the insurgents stormed all the security posts around the government compound and killed at least 20 soldiers and policemen. Fighting continued throughout the day and overnight and into Friday, Nazari said. Taliban spokesman Qari Yousf Ahmadi claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement sent to the media.

It was the latest attack by the Taliban who target Afghan forces on a daily basis even as they hold talks with U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad.

Khalilzad was in Islamabad on Friday and met with Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and other Pakistani officials. He had visited Kabul earlier this week where he lobbied for “intra-Afghan dialogue” - talks that would encompass prominent Afghan figures, government representatives and the opposition, as well as the Taliban.

According to the foreign ministry, Qureshi assured Khalilzad of Islamabad’s continued support for the ongoing Afghan peace process.

Khalilzad has held several rounds of talks with the Taliban, most recently last month in Qatar where both sides said progress has been made. But despite the talks, the Taliban still inflict staggering casualties on Afghan forces and now hold sway over half of the country. The insurgents refuse to talk directly with the government in Kabul, considering it a U.S. puppet.

Washington wants Islamabad to encourage the Taliban to hold direct talks with Kabul but the insurgents have shown no flexibility on that stance.

Khalilzad was also to meet with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan who last month stirred controversy by calling for the formation of an interim Afghan government with the Taliban. It angered Kabul, which recalled its envoy temporarily in protest, but Islamabad later said that Khan had been misquoted.

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Associated Press Writer Munir Ahmed in Islamabad contributed to this report.

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