Afghan forces clashed with Taliban fighters in a provincial capital about 120 kilometers (75 miles) from capital Kabul, officials and witnesses said, prompting the defence minister to take charge of a counteroffensive.
Violence has increased in Afghanistan since US forces began their final pull-out on May 1, as the insurgents press on with a campaign to seize new territory.
Vicious fighting erupted late Sunday on the edge of Mihtarlam, a city of approximately 140,000 people and the capital of Laghman province. At one point Defence Minister Yasin Zia took personal charge in the field, officials said.
“With the arrival of reinforcements, the enemy has sustained heavy blows,” Zia, former army chief of staff, said in a video message. The ministry said at least 50 Taliban fighters were killed in overnight fighting.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP the insurgents captured 37 security checkpoints on the outskirts of the city. An AFP correspondent reported fighting continuing in some parts of Mihtarlam on Monday, adding that hundreds of people have been displaced.
Casualty numbers and battlefield gains can rarely be independently verified in Afghanistan and both sides frequently exaggerate their successes and minimise losses.
The attack on Mihtarlam comes as the Taliban push on in efforts to capture new territory. The Taliban also captured Burka in northern Baghlan province earlier this month after government troops withdrew from the area.