By Zabihullah Tamanna
KABUL (AA) - At least 26 Taliban and Daesh militants have been killed in separate U.S. drone strikes in different parts of Afghanistan, local officials said Monday.
According to Zia Durrani, a provincial police spokesman, 22 Taliban militants were killed in the Shah Wali Kot district of the southern Kandahar province in a nighttime drone strike.
"The drone struck Taliban hideouts in the Kata Sang locality," Durrani said.
Taliban militants have consolidated their position in Shah Wali Kot since the group wrested control of a main highway linking Afghanistan’s Uruzgan and Kandahar provinces, closing the highway to traffic.
And in Nangarhar province, another two Taliban militants were reportedly killed in a separate U.S. drone strike in the De Bala district.
The U.S. has recently stepped up its drone attacks in an effort to pressure the Taliban to resume peace talks with the Kabul government.
Meanwhile, in the Sayedabad district of the Maidan Wardak province some 60 kilometers south of Kabul, an airstrike carried out by a NATO-led coalition reportedly killed a Daesh commander and his bodyguard.
In a related development, more than 50 policemen were killed in clashes with Taliban militants in different parts of the southern Helmand province, Afghan Brigadier-General Esmatullah Dawlatzai (commander of the 505th Bost Zone) said.
"Twenty-seven policemen were killed and 26 wounded during clashes in the Nad Ali district [of Helmand], while another 25 were killed and nine others wounded in the Grishk district," he said.
Karim Khan Atal, a member of Helmand’s provincial council, warned Monday that the entire province could fall to the Taliban if fresh army reinforcements were not dispatched to the area within 48 hours.
The Afghan Defense Ministry, for its part, said the Taliban could not capture provincial capital Lashkar Gah, maintaining that clearing operations were currently underway in different parts of Helmand.