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At least 11 Afghan Police Killed In Taliban Attack

FILE: Afghan soldiers take positions at a check post in the restive southern Helmand province.
FILE: Afghan soldiers take positions at a check post in the restive southern Helmand province.

Afghan officials say Taliban militants have attacked two checkpoints in the southern province of Helmand, killing 11 police officers.

Provincial Governor Hayatullah Hayat said on December 17 that Afghan forces eventually repelled the attack early on December 17 in the Qalai Sang area of the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah.

Hayat added that two officers were wounded in the fighting.

Provincial police chief Ghafar Safi said 15 militants were also killed.

The Taliban, who have a strong presence in Helmand, claimed responsibility for the attack.

In the neighboring Kandahar Province, another Taliban stronghold, provincial police chief General Abdul Raziq said a suicide car bomber attacked a convoy of foreign forces, killing an Afghan woman and wounding five other civilians.

The NATO Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan confirmed the attack and said there were no casualties among its personnel.

No group claimed responsibility.

The latest attacks come as the Western-backed government in Kabul has been struggling to fend off the Taliban and other militants since the withdrawal of most NATO troops in 2014.

However, the U.S. Defense Department hailed success on the battlefield by Afghan forces in its semiannual report to Congress -- the first since President Donald Trump announced in August his new strategy for the South Asia region.

The Pentagon said in the report given to Congress on December 15 that U.S. and Afghan "sources indicate this fighting season has been more successful than the last."

"During this reporting period [June 1, 2017, to November 30], the Taliban was unable to threaten any provincial centers, lost control of key districts, and the ANDSF retained control of all major population centers," it said, referring to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.

The report also urged Taliban insurgents to embrace "peace and political legitimacy" through a negotiated settlement with the Kabul government.

Under the new South Asia strategy, the Pentagon said that the United States had deployed "modest numbers" of additional U.S. forces to train, advise, and assist and for counterterrorism missions in Afghanistan.

The United States has about 14,000 uniformed personnel in Afghanistan, an increase of some 3,000 from the previous reporting period, it said.

The United States has been in Afghanistan since 2001, when it led an invasion to drive the Taliban from power following the September 11 terror attacks in the United States.

U.S. forces have remained as part of a NATO-led coalition ever since, although active combat operations were turned over to Afghan forces in 2014, and international troop levels have fallen from a peak of more than 100,000 to about 16,000.

With reporting by AP, AFP, dpa, Khaama Press, and Pajhwok