Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani. Photograph:( Reuters )
The Taliban have seized several checkpoints and closed in on Lashkar Gah but officials said the security forces had repelled overnight Taliban attacks in the districts of Nawa and Nad Ali, with casualties on both sides
Peace talks in Doha and war at home, that defines Afghanistan in a nutshell.
Afghanistan's defence minister flew to the southern province of Helmand a day after government forces launched a counter-offensive against Taliban terrorists who have battled their way towards the provincial capital in recent days.
The fighting in the province, where US and British troops for years fought to clear Taliban from a string of poppy-growing districts, comes as Afghan government negotiators and the Taliban try to push forward power-sharing talks in Qatar.
In another blow for the embattled government, two defence force helicopters setting off for a military mission in Helmand crashed into each other early on Wednesday killing nine people on board, the Ministry of Defence said in a statement.
The crash happened as the helicopters were taking off in restive Helmand province, where clashes have erupted between Afghan forces and the Taliban, said provincial governor's spokesman Omar Zawak.
Acting Defence Minister Assadullah Khalid arrived in Helmand's capital, Lashkar Gah, to assess the situation and support the forces facing the major insurgent offensive that has overshadowed the peace talks and brought US airstrikes.
The Taliban is trying to check how committed the Afghan government is towards the peace deal and how far it can push the government, without jeopardising the talks.
The Taliban have seized several checkpoints and closed in on Lashkar Gah but officials said the security forces had repelled overnight Taliban attacks in the districts of Nawa and Nad Ali, with casualties on both sides.
The Taliban assault in Helmand is testing the resolve of the government and casting doubt over the talks to end the 19 years of war since the Taliban were ousted.
The violence could also throw into question President Donald Trump's pledge last week to bring home the remaining US troops by Christmas.
Thousands of civilians have been caught up in the fighting, with more than 5,000 families displaced.
However, the Afghan Air Force has successfully carried out an attack on a group of Taliban terrorists in the southern Helmand Province, capturing the Taliban`s local deputy governor