Afghan official: 150 Taliban killed in 12-day fight

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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — At least 151 Taliban fighters have been killed by government forces during 12 days of fighting in the volatile east, near the border with Pakistan, the police chief of Kunar province said Tuesday.

Gen. Abdul Habib Sayedkhaili said at least another 100 insurgents were wounded in the fighting in Dangam district.

He said the Pakistani Taliban and Lashkar-i-Taiba -- the group responsible for the attacks on Mumbai in 2008 in which more than 160 people were killed -- were also taking part in the battle.

"That 17 foreign fighters that were killed during the battle prove that foreigners are supporting local insurgents in the area," he said.

"As Dangam is so close to the border, it is very easy for them to cross the border into Afghanistan and help the insurgents here. We are very careful with conducting our operations to prevent civilian casualties," he said.

The presence of foreign fighters in Taliban battles in Afghanistan is not unusual. The Afghan Taliban leadership is believed to be based in the Pakistani city of Quetta, and Kabul has long accused Pakistan of turning a blind eye to the group. Dangam is four kilometers (2.5 miles) from the porous border.

The Taliban denied losing so many fighters but did not provide their own figures.

Sayedkhaili said local people had joined the fight against the insurgents, and that five had been killed and 12 wounded, including both locals and security forces. He said there was no involvement of either Pakistani government forces or international forces that have been based in Afghanistan for the past 13 years. The U.S. and NATO are due to withdraw the last of their combat troops on Dec. 31, leaving behind a residual force of 13,000 to provide training and some battlefield backup.

Taliban attacks have escalated since international forces withdrew from Kunar four months ago and the fight across the country has intensified.

Kabul and Islamabad have discussed joining forces to launch operations against insurgent groups following last week's school massacre in the Pakistani city of Peshawar, in which Pakistani Taliban fighters killed more than 140 people, mainly children.

Gen. Sher Muhammad Karimi, chief of the general staff of the Afghan National Army and Gen. John Campbell, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, met with the head of the Pakistani army, Gen. Raheel Sharif, in Islamabad on Tuesday, Pakistan's military said in a statement.

The statement referred to "recently commenced operations by Afghan forces" against the Pakistani Taliban in areas close to border.

"Gen. Raheel Sharif vowed to extend full support to the visiting Afghan Chief of General Staff and ISAF Commander in all spheres, including coordinated operations in respective areas by both sides and sharing of intelligence," it said, without further elaboration.

Senior Afghan officials have said that no joint Afghan-Pakistani operations have yet been launched in border areas, but that cooperation against the Taliban is being discussed.

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