Afghan conflict: US conducts first air strike on Taliban since deal

Afghan Taliban militants and villagers attend a gathering as they celebrate the peace deal in Alingar district of Laghman Province on 2 March, 2020.Image copyright

Image caption

Taliban fighters were celebrating the US deal just days ago

The US military has conducted an air strike against Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, just hours after President Donald Trump said he had a “very good talk” with a leader of the group.

The US signed a deal with the Taliban on Saturday aimed at bringing peace to Afghanistan after years of war.

But a US forces spokesman said it launched an air strike on Wednesday in response to Taliban fighters attacking Afghan forces in Helmand province.

The Taliban has not commented.

It was not immediately clear if there were any casualties.

What did the US say?

Wednesday’s strike was the first by the US against the Taliban in 11 days, when a reduction in violence agreement began between the two sides in the lead-up to Saturday’s pact.

In a statement on Twitter, Colonel Sonny Leggett, a spokesman for the US Forces in Afghanistan, said it was a “defensive strike” to disrupt an attack on an Afghan National Security Forces checkpoint.

The spokesman added that the US was still “committed to peace” but had a responsibility to defend its Afghan partners. He said Afghans and the US had complied with their side of the agreement, while the Taliban appeared intent on “squandering” the opportunity.

“We call on the Taliban to stop needless attacks and uphold their commitments. As we have demonstrated, we will defend our partners when required,” he wrote.

What’s the background?

The US and the Taliban on Saturday signed an “agreement for bringing peace” to Afghanistan after more than 18 years of conflict.

The US and Nato allies agreed to withdraw all troops within 14 months if the militants uphold the deal.

But violence surged in Afghanistan just days after the deal was signed, with the Taliban ending a partial truce and resuming fighting with government troops.

Mr Trump said he had a “very good talk” with Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar on Tuesday about keeping the peace efforts on track.

Following the call, the Taliban said Mr Trump would ask his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to talk with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in order to make sure negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban went ahead as planned as part of the peace deal.