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Taliban continue talks whilst making big gains on the battlefield

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By Daniel Bellamy with AFP
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Taliban continue talks whilst making big gains on the battlefield
Copyright  KARIM JAAFAR/AFP or licensors
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As heavy fighting continues in Afghanistan, the Taliban and the government are still talking but there's little sign of moves towards peace.

Both sides met in Qatar on Saturday, as they have done for months. But sources familiar with the talks suggest that as the Taliban are making rapid gains on the battlefield, there is little incentive to reach an agreement.

Meanwhile, Pakistan on Saturday partially reopened its border with southern Afghanistan, closed after the Taliban took control of the strategic Afghan town of Spin Boldak, following heavy fighting with government forces last week.

Mohammed Tayab, a Pakistani paramilitary official, said the decision was made due to "relative calm on the other side," but the crossing would remain closed to trade.

The Taliban also tightened their grip on the north of the country, with clashes continuing on Saturday on the border with Turkmenistan.

The Taliban launched an all-out offensive in May, taking advantage of the start of the withdrawal of foreign forces which is due to be completed by the end of August. They conquered vast rural territories, especially in northern and western Afghanistan, far from their traditional strongholds in the south.

Government forces are struggling to hold onto major towns and cities whilst the Taliban have taken large rural areas.

Meanwhile in Kabul, in another sign the security situation is deteriorating, French nationals have flown home on a specially organised evacuation flight.

The embassy has urged all French nationals to leave Afghanistan immediately.

In recent days, other countries including India, China, Germany and Canada have repatriated their nationals or asked them to leave the territory.

Foreign troops have been present in Afghanistan for nearly twenty years, after the invasion led by the United States following the attacks of September 11, 2001. But they have retreated in recent months.

Deprived of crucial US air support, Afghan forces have so far offered little resistance to the Taliban. They essentially only control major axes and large towns, many of which are surrounded.