KUNDUZ -- At least 25 Afghan security force personnel were killed in an ambush blamed on the Taliban, officials said Wednesday (October 21).
The ambush came despite assurances by the Taliban to Washington last week that they would reduce bloodshed.
Security forces came under attack overnight Tuesday in Takhar Province and fighting was still going on, said Muhammad Jawad Hejri, a spokesman for the governor.
"The Taliban had taken positions in the houses around the area," he said. "They ambushed our forces who were there for an operation against the enemy."
At least 25 security forces have been killed so far, Hejri said.
But Takhar provincial health director Abdul Qayoum said 34 security personnel were killed, including the province's deputy police chief.
The Taliban did not directly take responsibility, but said their fighters had "engaged the enemy" in Takhar to retaliate against security operations carried out against them.
Despite joining peace talks with the Afghan government in Doha, Qatar, the Taliban have increased violence in Afghanistan in a bid to wield leverage in the negotiations.
A major assault by the Taliban in Helmand Province forced thousands of families to flee their houses last week, while a car bomb October 18 near the police headquarters in Ghor blamed on the insurgents left 16 people dead and 154 wounded.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said nearly 40,000 people had fled in Helmand, and called for aid to help the displaced.
"Disruptions in telecommunications, the threat of improvised explosive devices and the continued closure of the highway between Kandahar and Helmand following the destruction of several bridges are adding to the challenges," said Caroline Van Buren, the UNHCR's representative to Afghanistan.
Violence 'distressingly high'
Afghan and Taliban negotiators have met in Doha over the past few days, but little progress has occurred since the talks launched September 12.
"This level of violence, of course, makes the task of negotiating very difficult," said Nader Nadery, a negotiator for the Afghan government.
"Situations like this add to the sense of urgency for a ceasefire."
NATO supports the US-Taliban agreement and intra-Afghan talks, but the Taliban must stick to its commitments, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in Brussels October 21.
"The Taliban must live up to their commitments, significantly reduce the levels of violence," he said. "They must break all ties with al-Qaeda and other international terrorist groups. And they must negotiate in good faith."
"The talks in Doha offer the best chance for peace in a generation. They must preserve the gains made at such high price over the last two decades, including for women and girls," Stoltenberg said.
"Unfortunately, the Taliban and their supporters continue to use violence," Afghan President Ashraf Ghani told lawmakers while introducing his cabinet nominees at the Wolesi Jirga October 21.
"The recent Taliban attacks in Helmand, Ghor and other parts of the country show that they still believe in the false narrative of victory," he said.
Fighting is threatening the peace process, US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad said earlier this week.
"Violence today remains distressingly high in spite of the recent reaffirmation of the need for substantial reduction," he said.