Afghan forces launch a counter-attack on the Taliban as fighting rages for the third day in a row in a militant attack that casts a shadow over the peace talks.

Afghan officials said on Tuesday, that security forces launched a counter-attack in the south against Taliban fighters as fighting raged for the third consecutive day, in a militant attack that cast a shadow over peace talks between the two sides.

The Taliban attack on Helmand province is testing the government’s resolve at the start of talks aimed at ending 19 years war and could derail the promise made by US President Donald Trump last week before the election to bring the rest of the US forces home by Christmas.

It was the first major Taliban attack since talks began with the government last month and one of the biggest since the militants committed to a ceasefire as part of an agreement between the Taliban and Washington in February to withdraw US forces.

On Monday, the United States confirmed air strikes on Taliban fighters to defend Helmand from the attack. US air strikes have been relatively rare since February, when Washington agreed to withdraw its forces to end the longest war in US history.

Since Sunday, militants have seized military bases in Helmand and sealed off the regional capital of Lashkar Gah.

The media office of Helmand’s governor said on Tuesday, that Afghan special forces, backed by air cover from the National Air Force, had succeeded in retaking five checkpoints from the Taliban and killing 23 Taliban fighters.

Fighter planes and helicopters roamed the skies of Shukrakh throughout Monday night and Tuesday, targeting Taliban sites. 

The US military has not yet revealed if its forces or aircraft participated in the operation.