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Thirteen Afghan Police Officers Killed As U.N. Warns Of Humanitarian Crisis

Afghan officials say at least 13 police officers have been killed in an attack on a security checkpoint in the northern province of Baghlan.

Three more police officers were wounded in a separate attack on a checkpoint in the same province.

Both attacks occurred in areas of the provincial capital, Pul-e Khumri, on December 16.

No group claimed responsibility for the attacks, although local officials blamed the Taliban.

Since September, the Afghan government and Taliban militants have been holding peace talks in Qatar aimed at ending decades of war.

Despite the peace talks, violence in Afghanistan has continued unabated. There are regular clashes in various parts of the country and bomb and rocket attacks in the capital, Kabul.

At least five Afghan security personnel were killed in a Taliban attack on a checkpoint in the southern province of Uruzgan on December 16, said Ahmad Shah Sahil, spokesman for the provincial governor.

He added that at least 11 Taliban fighters were killed in the fighting.

The attacks came a day after a bomb blast and a shooting attack in Kabul killed at least three people, including Kabul's deputy provincial governor, Mahbobullah Mohibi.

Humanitarian Crisis

The United Nations has warned that 5 million more Afghans will be in need of help next year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and an increase in conflicts.

The need is increasing and "funding is urgently needed," Acting Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Ramesh Rajasingham told a news conference on December 15.

Rajasingham, who came back from a trip to Afghanistan, said the situation would be aggravated by the harsh winters Afghanistan usually experiences.

He added that the growing need for humanitarian assistance is the result of "the COVID-19 crisis, increased conflict, and displacements" of the population.

"We are going from a situation where we have (asked) for support to target around 11 million people in 2020 to what we estimate will be almost 16 million people next year," Rajasingham said.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said on December 15 that he hoped peace negotiations between the government and the Taliban would be moved to Afghanistan from Qatar, adding that it is insulting for the Afghan people that the talks are currently being held in luxury hotels in the Gulf state's capital, Doha.

The peace talks, which opened in September, follow a landmark U.S.-Taliban agreement reached in February in Qatar and will resume on January 5.

Under a U.S.-Taliban deal signed in Doha in February, all foreign forces are scheduled to leave Afghanistan by May 2021 in exchange for security guarantees from the militant group and a commitment to talk with the Afghan government in Kabul. NATO has roughly 11,000 troops in Afghanistan from several countries.

In November, the Trump administration announced that 2,000 American troops will exit Afghanistan by mid-January, leaving just 2,500 behind.

However, despite the peace talks, violence has continued unabated in the war-wracked country.

On December 15, a bomb blast and a shooting attack in Kabul killed at least three people, including Kabul's deputy provincial governor, Mahbobullah Mohibi.

In October, the UN mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), said 2,117 civilians were killed and 3,822 wounded in the first nine months of this year.

With reporting by AFP, AP, and Reuters
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