An Afghan official says at least 15 members of the country's security forces have been killed in a gunbattle with the Taliban in southern Uruzgan province.

Mohammad Nabi Niazo, the Dihrawud district police chief, said Wednesday the fighting took place late Tuesday during an operation to reopen an important highway.

He says that for four days the Taliban blocked the highway between Dihrawud and the provincial capital, Tarin Kot. He says Afghan forces have retaken control of the road.

He did not have information whether any Taliban fighters were killed.

The Taliban have stepped up their attacks in Uruzgan and neighboring provinces in the south, including Helmand where much of the world's illicit opium is produced.

The crop, along with other contraband, funds the insurgency, now in its 15th year.