Taliban ’talking and fighting’

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U.S. Army General John Nicholson, Commander of Resolute Support forces and U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The top US commander in Afghanistan played down a spate of recent Taliban attacks, saying violence levels were still lower than average as some insurgents talked peace – a situation he described as “talking and fighting.”

“You see mid-level, senior-level Taliban leaders engaging with Afghans,” said Army General John Nicholson, adding that a lot of the diplomatic activity was taking place “off stage.”

Nicholson’s remarks came the same day that gunmen armed with assault rifles and grenade launchers attempted to penetrate the heavily fortified headquarters of the Afghan interior ministry, battling security forces for more than two hours in the latest attack on the capital Kabul.

The attack was a reminder of the challenges facing US-backed Afghan forces even after 16 years of war, including in the capital Kabul. Last month, two explosions in Kabul killed at least 26 people, including nine journalists.

Nicholson said initial indications suggested Taliban and the Haqqani network were behind the attack, even though Islamic State claimed responsibility.

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