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story.lead_photo.caption Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, listens during a press conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, at the presidential palace, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini)

KABUL, Afghanistan -- The NATO chief urged the Taliban on Tuesday to stop killing their fellow Afghans, an appeal that came just hours after the insurgents attacked border troops in western Farah province, killing at least 20.

Speaking at a joint news conference with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the "Taliban must realize the war does not benefit anyone."

A resurgent Taliban now hold nearly half of Afghanistan and carry out near-daily attacks on Afghan security forces, inflicting heavy casualties. The Taliban view the U.S.-backed government in Kabul as a dysfunctional Western puppet and have refused repeated offers to negotiate with it.

But Washington and NATO are holding out hope, seeking to find a negotiated exit to 17 years of war.

Speaking alongside Stoltenberg, Ghani said his government hopes "the beginning of formal negotiations is not far."

"The result has to be an inclusive Afghan peace, one that all Afghans accept," he said. To this end, "we support the engagement of our international colleagues."

The remarks of the two stood in sharp contrast to the violence that shakes the nation almost daily.

In western Farah province, the Taliban attacked an Afghan border base Monday night, killing at least 20 troops and abducting about 20 others.

A senior army official in Farah, who was not authorized to speak to the media, confirmed the casualty figures.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the Farah attack; he also claimed several military vehicles, and large amounts of ammunition were seized.

In another attack Monday, the Taliban targeted a security outpost in the district of Khogyani, in Ghazni province, killing at least 13 members of the Afghan security forces and wounding three others, according to Mohammad Arif Noori, the governor's spokesman.

"Six police officers and seven soldiers were among those killed," he said. "It was a joint outpost of army and police which was built two days ago."

Six Taliban fighters were also killed in the assault and 10 others were wounded, he added.

In Kandahar province, 12 police officers were killed in a Taliban attack before dawn Monday on a police outpost in the district of Khakrez, according to Malim Mir Hamza, the district governor. Insurgents captured the outpost and seized all of the weapons and equipment there, he said.

In two other attacks in Kandahar on Monday, a total of five police officers were killed and seven others wounded when insurgents attacked security outposts in the districts of Maruf and Arghistan, according to Zia Durrani, the spokesman for the Afghan police in the province.

In four smaller assaults Monday, a total of at least nine members of the security forces were killed in the provinces of Zabul, in the south; Faryab and Sar-i-Pul in the north; and Badghis, in the northwest, local officials said.

In all, 59 police officers or soldiers were confirmed killed in the nine attacks Monday and Tuesday, which took place in seven provinces.

Stoltenberg said one of the reasons for the high casualties among the Afghan security forces is that they have taken the responsibility for the "security of the entire country."

"There no way I can go back to Europe or to United States, NATO allies and partners and say that it didn't exactly go as we expected, so now we should leave [Afghanistan]," Stoltenberg said. "That will be a total wrong approach; we are here because it is in our interest to be here, to increase our own security."

Information for this article was contributed by Rahim Faiez of The Associated Press; and by Fahim Abed and Rod Nordland of The New York Times.

A Section on 11/07/2018

Print Headline: Taliban advised to cease killing fellow Afghans

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