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United States launches air strike against the Taliban to defend Afghan forces

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KABUL: The United States launched an air strike against Taliban fighters to defend Afghan forces on Wednesday, an American military spokesman said, as violence fires after a series of deadly attacks by insurgents, which puts in serious doubt the incipient peace process of the country.

The news of the air attack in the southern province of Helmand, the first in 11 days, came hours after the president of the United States, Donald Trump, told reporters that he had had a “very good” conversation with the political chief Taliban, who signed a historic agreement with Washington on Saturday. to withdraw foreign forces.

However, since the signing in Doha, militants have intensified violence against Afghan forces, ending a one-week partial truce that provided rare relief to residents tired of the war.

US-Afghanistan spokesman Sonny Leggett tweeted that the air raid took place against Taliban fighters who were “actively attacking” a checkpoint of Afghan forces in Helmand province.

“This was a defensive attack to interrupt the attack,” he tweeted.

“We call on the Taliban to stop unnecessary attacks and fulfill their commitments. As we have shown, we will defend our partners when necessary.” He said the insurgents had carried out 43 attacks at checkpoints in Helmand on Tuesday alone.

The insurgents killed at least 20 Afghan soldiers and police in a series of overnight attacks, government officials told AFP on Wednesday, crushing the peace talks between Kabul and the Taliban, which will begin on March 10 .

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

A defense ministry official who spoke with AFP on condition of anonymity confirmed the number of army victims, while the provincial police spokesman, Hejratullah Akbari, confirmed the deaths of the police.

The insurgents also attacked police in the central province of Uruzgan on Tuesday night, and governor spokesman Zergai Ebadi told AFP: “Unfortunately, six policemen were killed and seven were injured.” The news of the attacks came after Trump told reporters in Washington on Tuesday that he had a “very good” relationship with Taliban political chief Mullah Baradar, with the couple talking on the phone for 35 minutes, according to insurgents.

“The relationship I have with the mullah is very good. Today we had a good long conversation and, you know, they want to stop the violence, they would also like to stop the violence,” he said.

But on Wednesday, the spokesman for the US army, Leggett, warned that “the #Afgans and the United States have complied with our agreements; however, the Taliban seem to intend to waste this (opportunity) and ignore the will of the people for the peace”.

Trump has promoted the Doha agreement as a way to end the bloody 18-year-old US military presence in Afghanistan, just in time for his re-election nomination in November.

Under the terms of the agreement, the United States and other foreign forces will leave Afghanistan within 14 months, subject to Taliban security guarantees and the insurgents’ commitment to hold talks with the national government in Kabul.

The agreement also includes the commitment to exchange 5,000 Taliban prisoners held by the Afghan government in exchange for 1,000 captives, something that militants have cited as a prerequisite for the talks, but that President Ashraf Ghani has refused to do before The negotiations begin.

Trump has said the Taliban and Washington “have a very common interest” in ending the war.

Since the signing of the agreement on Saturday, the Taliban have publicly claimed “victory” over the United States and on Monday announced they would resume attacks on Afghan national forces.

Last week, the Ghani government sent a delegation to Qatar to open “initial contacts” with the insurgents, but Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said Tuesday that militants would not meet with Kabul representatives except to discuss the release of their captives

The apparent differences between the Doha agreement and a joint statement between the United States and Afghanistan in Afghanistan underscore the obstacles that negotiators face.

The agreement between the United States and the Taliban promised to release the prisoners, while the Kabul document only required that both parties determine “the feasibility of releasing” the captives.



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