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    Taliban briefly take Afghan district as security worsens

    KABUL — The Taliban briefly captured a district in western Afghanistan on Monday, officials said, as security continued to deteriorate in the besieged province of Farah.

    The fall of the district, Anardarah, came days after Afghan security forces suffered heavy casualties in another district of Farah, which borders Iran and is situated along one of the country’s most lucrative drug routes.

    Afghan and Western officials warn that the country’s security could further deteriorate in the coming year, even as the US military finds itself drawn deeper into the war, with additional military advisers arriving to help Afghan forces.

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    The Taliban have yet to show any interest in a comprehensive peace offer made recently by the Afghan government.

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    Dadullah Qani, a member of the Farah provincial council, said Taliban fighters stormed Anardarah district, which used to be a safe area, and overran a number of government compounds early Monday.

    Additional troops that were later sent in retook the district and pushed the Taliban back out, said Nasrat Rahimi, a spokesman for the Afghan Interior Ministry.

    “They lost 56 fighters and a dozen of them were wounded,” Rahimi said of the Taliban. “Of our forces, I can confirm eight men were killed and 13 wounded.”

    Mohammad Naseer Mehri, a spokesman for the governor of Farah, said the attack began around 4 a.m. and the Taliban had managed to enter the governor’s compound and seize it.

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    “We sent more troops to the district and also called in air power to take part in ongoing fighting to halt the Taliban’s progress,” Mehri said.

    As the Taliban have gained territory in recent years, Farah has become a greater concern for the Afghan government. The province has repeatedly been on the verge of falling, with insurgents on several occasions managing to enter the provincial capital, Farah City.

    “None of the districts in Farah are completely under Taliban control, but we can say that all of the districts are contested,” said Farid Bakhtawar, head of the provincial council.

    The insurgents control 3 percent of Afghanistan’s 407 districts, and influence or contest an additional 40 percent, according to estimates in a report by the Office of Inspector General of the US Department of Defense. The Afghan government, by contrast, controls 18 percent of the country and influences 38 percent more.

    On Friday, Afghan soldiers on a clearance operation in the Bala Boluk district of Farah came under heavy Taliban fire. Bakhtawar said that at least 18 Afghan soldiers, eight of them commandos, had been killed in the attack and that three others had been taken captive by the Taliban.

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    Mohammed Radmanish, a spokesman for the Defense Ministry, said, however, that seven commandos and two regular army soldiers had been killed in the attack and two others wounded. He said that 31 Taliban had been killed.

    “As you know, we have too many problems in Farah province. Intense fighting continues in the province, and the enemy suffered heavy casualties in this fighting,” Radmanish said. “Our forces also suffered casualties in the fighting — this is war, both sides suffer.”

    US officials have warned that the country’s security situation could further deteriorate in the coming year, adding to further political instability. The Afghan government, marred by infighting, has struggled to hold long-delayed elections, and it faces an increasingly vocal opposition.

    “The overall situation in Afghanistan probably will deteriorate modestly this year in the face of persistent political instability, sustained attacks by the Taliban-led insurgency, unsteady Afghan National Security Forces performance, and chronic financial shortfalls,” Dan Coats, director of national intelligence, told the US Senate last week.