At least 30 soldiers have been killed in a huge Taliban attack on a national security base, Afghan officials have said.
The militants have said that three US Marines were killed in the assault in the early hours of Wednesday, although the claim has not been verified by the authorities.
The attack on an outpost in Kakhrez in Kandahar province – the heartland of the extremist insurgency – left another 13 soldiers wounded, defence ministry deputy spokesperson Mohammed Radmanish said.
Militants reportedly managed to capture weapons and vehicles from the base during the swift assault, although 205th Corps Commander General Imam Nazar said that reinforcements managed to beat the attackers back.
There has been intense fighting in the region in recent days amid a renewed Taliban offensive which has also seen a string of horrific suicide attacks on civilians.
A Taliban spokesperson said on Wednesday that the insurgents had made strategically important gains across the country’s south over the last week. The group is now in control of some 40 per cent of the country, although it has not managed to maintain a grip on any urban centres.
While Afghanistan’s police and military forces total almost 300,000 personnel, they have struggled to contain the Taliban insurgency since the majority of US and international troops withdrew from the country in 2014.
Afghanistan: Between Hope and Fear
Civilian and military deaths have sky rocketed since, and the chaos has allowed Isis to gain a foothold in Afghanistan’s remote east.
The unrelenting violence has led to widespread anger with the weak and divided government of President Ashraf Ghani, which they say is not doing enough to protect the people from militant violence.
A car bomb attack in capital Kabul this week killed at least 35 people, bringing the number of civilian dead so far in 2017 to 1,697.
A total of 6,800 Afghan soldiers were killed by hte Taliban and Isis in 2016, a figure the US Special Inspector General for Reconstruction (SIGAR) called “shockingly high”.
Last month US President Donald Trump bowed to pressure from the Pentagon to allow the military to set its own troop levels to prevent the precarious security situation from deteriorating further.
A total of 13,000 US and Nato soldiers are currently in the country, although observers fear after 16 years of war Afghanistan has arrived at a stalemate in the fight against extremism.
While it is expected that 4,000 extra troops will be deployed, there is still no coherent strategy from the Trump administration on the US’s future involvement.