KABUL (Reuters) - Fighting in Afghanistan has escalated ahead of the usual spring season, as both sides seek to increase leverage in talks on a peace settlement - a gamble that analysts warn could also risk hardening positions.

In March, hundreds of Afghan forces were killed or wounded in heavy clashes in southern, western and northern Afghanistan, according to unofficial reports. Two U.S. special forces were killed near Kunduz, and attacks by both sides caused civilian casualties. U.S. air strikes also accidentally killed Afghan soldiers, in a case of friendly fire.

"Government forces are on the offensive this year. We expect a lot of fighting and obviously casualties," said a senior Afghan security source.

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(U.S. Army/ Sgt. Mike MacLeod)

Sure, the Afghan government has major issues of corruption, double-dealing, and people accused of war crimes in high-level positions, but it may turn into an even bigger shit show that could "trigger state collapse" in the next couple of months, according to the Institute for the Study of War.

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President Barack Obama awards Sgt. Dakota Meyer the Medal of Honor Sept. 15, 2011. Meyer is the first living Marine recipient of the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Daniel Wetzel).

Receiving the Medal of Honor is the worst thing that ever happen to former Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer, he told the military podcast Zero Blog Thirty.

In September 2011, Meyer became the first living Marine to receive the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War. When his team was ambushed by more than 50 Taliban fighters, Meyer braved intense enemy fire to save 36 U.S. and Afghan troops.

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Afghanistan National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib shakes hands with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi before their meeting at the Zhongnanhai Leadership Compound in Beijing, China January 10, 2019. (Reuters/Andy Wong)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - In fallout from a feud over U.S.-Taliban peace talks, a senior U.S. diplomat has told Afghan President Ashraf Ghani that U.S. officials will no longer deal with his national security adviser, four knowledgable sources said on Monday.

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A member of the Taliban holds a flag in Kabul, Afghanistan June 16, 2018. The writing on the flag reads: 'There is no god but Allah, Muhammad is the messenger of Allah'. (Reuters/Mohammad Ismail)

The Taliban captured 150 Afghan soldiers after they tried fleeing into neighboring Turkmenistan and were forced back, The New York Times reported on Sunday.

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U.S. troops walk from a Chinook helicopter in Uruzgan province, Afghanistan July 7, 2017. (Reuters/Omar Sobhani)

The United States and Afghanistan clashed publicly on Thursday over U.S. peace talks with the Taliban, with a visiting Afghan official accusing the chief U.S. negotiator of "delegitimizing" the Kabul government by excluding it from the deliberations.

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