KABUL, Afghanistan - With very little progress being made in peace talks between the U.S. and Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan, now officials in the country have confirmed that joint airstrikes dealt a heavy blow to the group.
According to the Afghanistan Defense Ministry, the country's security forces conducted nine ground attacks and 20 airstrikes in 14 provinces, leaving as many as 57 Taliban members killed and 13 others injured.
The ministry has stated that operations were conducted over the past 24 hours and most of the militants were killed in Ghazni and Helmand provinces.
Further, on Sunday, officials from Afghanistan and the U.S. confirmed that one of the most senior Taliban commander was killed in a U.S. airstrike in southern Afghanistan.
According to officials, the airstrikes killed the Taliban commander Mullah Abdul Manan, who was the leader of the insurgents' campaign to take over much of Helmand Province.
Described as Taliban's governor, Commander Manan was believed to have been a key figure in developing the Taliban's special forces - the Red Unit, which have carried out deadly attacks across the country.
Confirming Manan's death in the airstrike, Sgt. First Class Debra Richardson, a spokeswoman for the United States forces in Afghanistan, said, "The Taliban should consider intensifying peace talks, not the fight. They're going to have trouble intensifying the fight when their fighters and leaders are under constant assault. Peace talks are the only solution."
Meanwhile, commenting on the death of the group's top commander, the Taliban issued a statement saying the death of Mullah Manan was "a great loss."
However, the insurgent group insisted that it would not affect the group's momentum.
In a statement following the key victory in the country's 17-year-long war against Taliban, the Afghan interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish said that the top Taliban commander's death was a major blow to the insurgent group and would "lower the moral" of its fighters in southern Afghanistan.
In a separate incident on Sunday, local media reports stated that at least 37 Taliban militants were killed and several others were injured in the country's southern Kandahar province after the group's bomb-laden armored vehicle exploded suddenly.