Taliban and Afghan government forces clashed across Afghanistan hours after the start of long-awaited peace talks in Doha, officials said, underscoring the uphill challenge of settling a 19-year insurgency. Talks between the two sides were to begin shortly after a US-Taliban agreement in February, but began only over the weekend after months of delays, caused in part by continuing Taliban offensives in the war-torn country. “With the start of intra-Afghan talks we were expecting the Taliban to reduce the number of their attacks, but unfortunately their attacks are still going in high numbers,” Fawad Aman, a spokesman for the Afghan defence ministry, said. Representatives from a number of countries who spoke at the inauguration of the peace talks called on the Taliban to announce an immediate ceasefire before negotiators sat down to find a way to end decades of war in Afghanistan. The Taliban did not say anything about a possible ceasefire at the ceremony.Achieving a significant reduction in violence and how to get to a permanent ceasefire would be among the first issues the sides would discuss when they meet, the head of Afghanistan’s peace council, Abdullah Abdullah, told Reuters. Aman said that, on Friday, the eve of the inauguration of the talks, the Taliban had carried out 18 attacks against government forces and installations across the country, inflicting heavy casualties. “We don’t have exact information about Taliban attacks on Saturday, but I can say the number of attacks has increased instead of decreased”.Taliban attacks on Saturday night were confirmed by officials in the provinces of Kapsia and Kunduz. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement that the insurgent group attacked a convoy of Afghan forces that had arrived to launch an operation along a key highway in Kunduz. He added that security forces carried out air and artillery strikes on Saturday night in the provinces of Baghlan and Jowzjan. Meanwhile, Qatar’s ruler Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani met representatives of both the Afghan government and the Taliban to wish them success during peace talks taking place in the Gulf state, Qatar state media reported on Sunday.Talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban began in the Qatari capital Doha on Saturday, aimed at ending 19 years of war in Afghanistan. Sheikh Tamim met with the Afghan High Council for National Reconciliation Chairman Abdullah Abdullah and the accompanying delegation, QNA said on Twitter.Sheikh Tamim told Abdullah he wished the negotiations success and to achieve the Afghan people’s aspirations for national unity, progress and prosperity, Qatar News Agency said. He expressed the same remarks in a meeting with Taliban political office head Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, which was also attended by a delegation, QNA said in a separate tweet.Separately, acting Foreign Minister of Afghanistan Haneef Atmar on Sunday appreciated Pakistan’s continuous support for a durable peace in Afghanistan. In a tweet, Atmar fully endorsed Pakistan Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s views at the commencement of Intra-Afghan negotiations. “I fully share the view of SM Qureshi & Foreign Office Pk (Pakistan) that a peaceful and stable Afghanistan will bring new opportunities for the progress and prosperity of not only Afghanistan but also the region. We appreciate Pakistan’s support for a lasting peace,” he posted.