U.S. pull out from Afghanistan can cost India dear

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The withdrawal of these troops has been one of the sticking points in talks between USA and Taliban representatives that are getting under way in Qatar. Spokesmen for the intelligence agency could not be reached Monday night to comment.

Fights between security forces and Taliban fighters have continued to intensify across the country during the freezing Afghan winter, which traditionally experiences a reduction in combat.

At least 43 people were killed and 54 injured in the attack, the NDS intelligence service told the BBC.

Local officials in Afghanistan's Wardak province said on Tuesday (Jan 22) they believed a Taleban attack on a spy agency base in the province's capital the previous day may have killed over 100 people. "The death toll was roughly 100".

The Taliban now hold sway in nearly half of Afghanistan and carry out attacks on a daily basis, mainly targeting the country's beleaguered security forces.

A source close to the talks said members of the Taliban's political office were meeting with Khalilzad in Doha, adding: "They will hopefully finalize a timeline and mechanism of the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan". "If such attacks continue, there must be a cease-fire agreement first".

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The provincial governor and top security officials traveling in the convoy were apparently the target of the attack.

Exact casualty figures could not be determined, with officials in Wardak and Kabul giving wildly varying estimates, in part because officials of the Afghan spy agency, which prides itself on high-level skills and sophistication, refused to release information. There was no official confirmation of this higher toll.

The United States and the Taliban on Tuesday resumed their talks in Qatar's capital Doha after the two sides reportedly agreed on an agenda for talks which includes the withdrawal of USA forces from Afghanistan and the assurance that no threat will be posed against other nations from Afghan territory. Some of the wounded were taken to provincial hospitals for treatment while the more serious cases were sent to the capital, Kabul. That confrontation killed 150 Afghan security forces and 95 civilians dead, as well as hundreds of Taliban fighters, said officials then. Last year Ghani said 28,000 Afghan police officers and soldiers had been killed since 2015. On Sunday, in a speech formally launching his re-election campaign, Ghani said his government was determined to bring peace, but "we will not beg for it".

The simultaneousness of the events - the deadly attack, one of the worst Taliban assaults on Afghan forces in recent years - and the Qatar meeting that was meant to pave way for talks aimed at resolving Afghanistan's 17-year war, underscored the audacity of the insurgents in the face of stepped-up USA peace efforts.

Echoing other news outlets, AP described the casualty toll as "unprecedented" for the NDS, which is among the best equipped and trained in the country.