Afghan president delays India trip by few hours, holds emergency meeting with NATO commander

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KABUL, Afghanistan — The Afghan president delayed his official trip to India by a few hours Monday to hold an emergency meeting with the NATO commander in Afghanistan and top Afghan security officials.

Ashraf Ghani was scheduled to leave for India early in the afternoon, said a palace official, but instead went into an emergency session with U.S. Gen. John Campbell. No further details were immediately available and the official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the meeting.

The Taliban have stepped up their attacks against Afghan security forces across the country and last week launched the start of their annual spring offensive, which coincides with the melting of snow in the mountains and warmer weather. The Taliban escalate their attacks every year when the warm weather allows them to more easily traverse the mountains along the Afghan-Pakistan border.

This fighting season is the first year that Afghan forces face the insurgents alone on the battlefield, following the withdrawal of foreign combat troops at the end of December.

Over the past three days, the northern Kunduz province has seen large-scale Taliban attacks. The province's Gov. Omer Safi said reinforcements have arrived and that plans are underway for an operation in three different parts of Kunduz.

"There are casualties as a result of three days battles on both sides, but I can't provide precise figures as the fighting is still going on," Safi said.

Meanwhile, at least five civilians were killed when a bomb detonated inside a house in the southern Zabul province, Atta Jan, head of the Zabul provincial council said. Two children and a woman were among those killed in the explosion the night before in the Shinkay district, he said.

And in the eastern Khost province, three policemen were wounded when a roadside bomb exploded targeting their vehicle, said Mubariz Mohammad Zadran, spokesman for the provincial governor.

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