Lahore - Taliban fighters attacked a military base and police training centre outside Kabul killing more than 100 members of Afghan security forces on Monday, hours before they began formal talks with US representatives in Qatar for finding a solution to end the decades-long war.

“We have information that 126 people have been killed in the explosion inside the military training centre,” the unnamed defence ministry official told the Reuters news agency about the attack in Maidan Shahr.

Some other reports confirmed the attack in the capital of Wardak province but put the number of causalities much lower.

A BBC report put the number around 20 while The New York Times reported that more than 40 security officials were killed in the attack targeting the Afghan intelligence service, NDS.

If the death toll does reach this figure, it will be the deadliest attack against the National Directorate of Security (NDS) in nearly two decades. Reports said dozens of people were wounded in the attack.

Militants rammed a vehicle laden with explosives through a military checkpoint in Maidan Shahr, before detonating it. The scene of attack is about 44km southwest of Kabul, along the Ghazni-Kabul highway.

Akhtar Mohammad Khan Tahiri, the head of Wardak’s provincial council, said the target was a training center for pro-government militia members run by the NDS.

A government spokesman declined to comment. Earlier, the government had said 12 people were killed.

Some of the wounded were in provincial hospitals, while the more serious cases were being treated in Kabul, said Salem Asgherkhail, head of the area’s public health department.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the coordinated attack, carried out using a car bomb that detonated at the gate of the base in Maidan Shahr, according to Nasrat Rahimi, the deputy spokesman for the Interior Ministry.

Armed Taliban fighters then moved in, a tactic the group has used in many previous attacks.

The attack comes a day after a Taliban assault in the neighbouring Logar province killed eight security forces.

The Taliban has been on the offensive in recent months, attacking targets around the country in an apparent effort to expand their influence and perhaps to gain more leverage in any future peace talks.

According to data from the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), the Taliban controls or contests nearly half of Afghanistan.

Since July, the US has tried to restart a peace process with the Taliban. US officials have met Taliban representatives in a number of countries. The Taliban has refused to meet Afghan government officials, calling them “puppets”.

US Senator Lindsey Graham said in Pakistan on Sunday President Donald Trump should meet Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan as soon as possible to reset long-difficult US relations and push for a peaceful settlement in Afghanistan.

US relations with Pakistan have been strained by suspicions that elements in the Pakistani establishment were aiding the Taliban, a charge Islamabad strongly denies. However, relations have appeared to improve in recent months amid efforts to push the armed group towards a peace deal.

US-Taliban talks

The Afghan Taliban and US representatives began formal talks in the Persian Gulf state of Qatar on Monday after the two sides agreed on a two-point agenda, the militia said in a statement emailed to the media.

“The two-point agenda says: (a) US-led foreign forces would end the “occupation” of Afghanistan; and (b) Afghan soil would not be used in future to harm any country,” Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid said in the statement.

“US officials met with Islamic Emirate representatives in Qatar’s capital Doha. The negotiations will continue tomorrow (Tuesday),” he added.

Afghanistan have been beset by disagreement in recent weeks, with the United States opposing the Taliban’s decision to shut the Afghan government out of discussions.

Senior Taliban leaders said that regional powers including Pakistan had approached them and wanted them to meet the US delegation in Islamabad and also include the Afghan government in the peace process but that the approaches had been rejected.

Earlier in the day, the Taliban killed over 100 members of the Afghan forces in central Maidan Wardak province of Afghanistan.