Afghan forces battled Taliban fighters on the outskirts of a northern city

Afghan forces battled Taliban fighters on the outskirts of a northern city on Tuesday, with police in Kunduz province saying scores of combatants had been killed as insurgents mounted an offensive following the withdrawal of most NATOforces. Having announced their spring offensive last week, the Taliban are seeking to gain territory in the north, where the Afghan army and police have less presence than in the traditional Taliban strongholds in the country's south and east.

The Taliban push is a major test of the NATO-trained Afghan army and police, who are fighting with almost no air support or help from the few thousand remaining US and allied troops. Afghan forces sent reinforcements to Kunduz this week after the Taliban penetrated a southern district of the provincial capital, called Kunduz city. "Our security forces have pushed the Taliban back in the Gul Tepa area of Kunduz city," said provincial police spokesman Sayed Sarwar Hussaini, though he acknowledged fighting was still taking place within the city limits on Tuesday.