KABUL - Senior US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has arrived in Kabul for talks with Afghan leaders, an official said Sunday, in his first trip to the Afghan capital since being appointed to lead peace efforts with the Taliban.

The visit by Khalilzad, a former US ambassador to Kabul, Baghdad and the United Nations, comes as the Afghan government and international community intensify efforts to end the 17-year war.

A spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said Khalilzad would have dinner with Ghani and other officials on Sunday. He would not provide further details about Khalilzad's visit.

The US embassy in Kabul did not immediately respond to AFP's request for comment.

Khalilzad is also scheduled to visit Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar as part of a 10-day trip to "coordinate and lead US efforts to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table", the US State Department said last week.

His arrival comes as the Taliban and the Islamic State group ramp up attacks across the country ahead of this month's long-delayed parliamentary elections that are seen as a dry run for next year's presidential vote.

In the latest incident, Taliban fighters killed 14 members of the security forces in a district in eastern Afghanistan that straddles the strategic Kabul-Kandahar highway linking the Afghan capital and the group's southern strongholds. The Sayedabad district police chief was among those killed in the heavy fighting overnight, Wardak provincial governor spokesman Abdul Rahman Mangal told AFP.

Another seven were wounded, deputy interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said in a statement. The Taliban also suffered "heavy casualties", Rahimi added. The group claimed its fighters had killed dozens of security forces.

An electricity cable was destroyed in the battle, severing power to Wardak, Ghazni, Logar and Paktia provinces, power utility Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat said in a statement.

The attack on Sayedabad district, which is less than two hours' drive from Kabul, came shortly after militants destroyed several bridges along the same highway in neighbouring Ghazni province, forcing its temporary closure.

Meanwhile, Husain Ali Baligh, an official of provincial council, confirmed the incident and added that the Taliban militants have seized control of the district headquarters by early Sunday in the province, 35 km west of Kabul.

The Kabul-Kandahar highway, a main road connecting Kabul with southern and western provinces, was blocked by militants as heavy clashes were still ongoing in the district on Sunday, according to Baligh. The violence has been on the rise as Afghan security forces struggle against a surge in attacks by militants at the time when the country is preparing for parliamentary and district council elections slated for later this month.

During the Oct 20 elections, nearly nine million registered voters, including three million women, will cast their ballots to elect members of the 249-seat lower house of parliament for a five-year term while they will also vote to elect members of the district councils.

A major Taliban assault on Ghazni's provincial capital in August triggered five days of fighting with security forces that left hundreds dead.

Separately, the defence ministry is investigating reports of "possible civilian casualties" during clashes in Paktia province on Saturday, spokesman Ghafoor Ahmad Jawed said.

Provincial police chief Raz Mohammad Mandozai told AFP that 10 civilians were killed and 20 were wounded in an air strike on Garda Serai district.

Other local sources said at least 10 people had been wounded in the aerial bombardment. US Forces, which is the only international force known to conduct air strikes in Afghanistan, denied it carried out the attack.