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Afghan officers killed in 'erroneous' air strike

At least 10 killed and another nine wounded in Helmand province during military operations against the Taliban.

US advisers in Helmand

As the Afghan military attempts to push back Taliban fighters, an air strike has killed 10 security personnel in Helmand province, according to an official.

At least nine Afghan police officers were wounded in the "erroneous" air strike in Gereshk district and an investigation is under way, Hayatullah Hayat, Helmand governor, told AFP news agency.

"The air strike happened as Afghan forces were pushing to break through the Taliban front line in the strategic area that has been the scene of heavy fighting over the past several days," Hayat said.

The incident, which was confirmed by the defence ministry, comes more than two months after a US air strike killed 16 Afghan police officers and wounded two others in the same district, large parts of which are under Taliban control.

Most of opium-rich Helmand province is controlled or contested by the Taliban, who are heavily reliant on the proceeds of drug trafficking to finance their armed campaign.

Kabul meeting

In other developments on Sunday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani met Pakistan's army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa in Kabul.

The two sides discussed regional security and bilateral relations, a statement released by the Afghan Presidential Palace said.

The Taliban, as well as the Haqqani network group, remain deeply entrenched in Afghanistan, and are seen as a major destablising force in the country as a whole, as well as for the NATO coalition currently active there.

control

The Afghan government statement said both sides discussed "peace and stability, counterterrorism, trade and transit relations, and short-term and long-term Afghanistan-Pakistan relations," in what the palace hailed as "a new chapter" in bilateral ties.

The two sides pledged to follow up on the issues discussed in the meeting.

Pakistan argues that it carries out offensives against all groups of fighters in its tribal regions near the Afghan border, and that it is also a victim of armed groups.

New US policy

Afghanistan and Pakistan have long accused each other of housing terrorist groups that launch attacks in neighbouring countries.

Bajwa's visit comes on the heels of President Trump's announcement about a new US policy towards South Asia.

In a speech that was short on details, Trump had harsh words for Pakistan, accusing the country of knowingly harbouring Afghan fighters.

He also said the US would increase its presence in Afghanistan and encouraged Pakistan's chief rival India to play a greater role in the region.

Last week, Pakistan's foreign minister told a seminar in New York that effective border management with Afghanistan is imperative to stop the infiltration of "terrorists".


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