CASES 324,077 618
DEATHS 6,673 14

KABUL: The Taliban said on Sunday it has largely reduced its operations across Afghanistan since the Doha agreement in February, top negotiator for the militant group said, refuting accusations of escalating violence.

Negotiator Abdul Salam Hanafi said that the group had not announced any spring operation and avoided attacking the provincial capitals or staging large-scale operations in major cities.

He accused the Afghan security forces of surging attacks, against which the militants had defended themselves.

US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said last week that the violence in Afghanistan has clearly risen and that it was "imperative all sides reduce violence significantly." Dozens of security forces were killed or wounded recently in numerous Taliban attacks.

On Friday, Khalilzad told broadcaster PBS he Taliban would not accept a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire until a political settlement has been reached with the Afghan government.

Meanwhile, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has warned against a premature withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.

"All those who have invested in the Afghan peace process should resist the temptation for setting unrealistic timelines. A hasty international withdrawal from Afghanistan would be unwise," Khan said in an opinion piece published in The Washington Post.

Commenting on the ongoing intra-Afghan peace talks, Khan said they would likely be difficult and the progress could be "slow and painstaking."

"A bloodless deadlock on the negotiating table is infinitely better than a bloody stalemate on the battlefield," he said.

Afghan negotiation teams are currently debating the agenda for the ongoing peace talks in Doha.

Hanafi said that the teams could not reach agreement on a common agenda because both the Taliban and the Afghan government claimed credit for the start of the talks.

According to experts, the success of the peace talks is crucial as it could prevent another civil war in the country, after the full withdrawal of international forces.

Abdullah Abdullah, chairperson of Afghanistan's High Council for National Reconciliation, is scheduled to arrive in Islamabad on Monday in order to discuss the intra-Afghan talks.

The Taliban first took control of Afghanistan 24 years ago, after brutally killing former Afghan president Najibullah Ahmadzai and his brother in the middle of a civil war.—dpa