US Hits Taliban With Airstrike, First Time Since Peace Deal

US Forces-Afghanistan spokesman called upon the Taliban to “stop needless attacks and uphold their commitments.

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US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, left, and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban group’s top political leader shake hands after signing a peace agreement between Taliban and US officials in Doha, Qatar, Saturday, 29 Feb 2020.

The US hit Taliban fighters with an airstrike for the first time in 11 days in response to an insurgent attack on Afghan forces in southern Helmand province on Wednesday, 4 March, an American military spokesman said.

"The US conducted an airstrike on 4 March against Taliban fighters in Nahr-e Saraj, Helmand, who were actively attacking an #ANDSF checkpoint. This was a defensive strike to disrupt the attack," US Forces-Afghanistan spokesman Sonny Leggett tweeted.

Leggett said while the Taliban claims to be fighting to free Afghanistan from international forces, it conducted “43 attacks on #ANDSF checkpoints in #Helmand.”

Leggett called upon the Taliban to “stop needless attacks and uphold their commitments,” adding that they will defend partners when required.

Further, the US Forces-Afghanistan spokesperson said Afghanistan and the US have complied with their agreements, however, the Taliban appears to be “squandering” this opportunity and “ignoring the will of the people for peace”.

The insurgents killed at least 20 Afghan soldiers and policemen in a series of overnight attacks, government officials told AFP on Wednesday. This comes at a time when peace talks between Kabul and the Taliban are due to begin on March 10.

"Taliban fighters attacked at least three army outposts in Imam Sahib district of Kunduz last night, killing at least 10 soldiers and four police," said Safiullah Amiri, a member of the provincial council.

A defence ministry official speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity confirmed the army toll, while the provincial police spokesman Hejratullah Akbari confirmed the police fatalities.

The insurgents also attacked police in central Uruzgan province on Tuesday night, with the governor's spokesman Zergai Ebadi telling AFP, "Unfortunately, six police were killed and seven wounded.”

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump confirmed Tuesday that he spoke on the phone to a Taliban leader, making him the first US president believed to have ever spoken directly with the militant group responsible for the deaths of thousands of US troops in nearly 19 years of fighting in Afghanistan.

“We had a very good conversation with the leader of the Taliban today, and they're looking to get this ended, and we're looking to get it ended. I think we all have a very common interest,” Trump said. “We had, actually, a very good talk with the leader of the Taliban.”

(With inputs from the PTI)

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