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US conducts airstrike on Taliban

An MQ-9 Reaper, armed with GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided munitions and AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, flies a combat mission over southern Afghanistan. (U.S Air Force/Released)
March 04, 2020

U.S. forces in Afghanistan have conducted an airstrike on Taliban fighters Wednesday, following a series of deadly Taliban attacks and an apparent early break down in the recent U.S.-Taliban peace deal.

The Taliban were in the process of attacking Afghan security forces when the U.S. strikes were called in, according to a tweet by U.S. Forces-Afghanistan spokesman Col. Sonny Leggett. The strike was the first by U.S. forces in 11 days, and Leggett described the strike as defensive in nature and meant to disrupt the ongoing Taliban attack.

In further tweets, Leggett called on the Taliban to return to the peace agreement. Leggett suggested while the Taliban claims to be fighting for the removal of international forces, their recent attacks have harmed the U.S.-Taliban peace deal that aimed for a withdrawal of U.S. forces in the ensuing months.

On Monday, Taliban leaders ordered fighters to resume fighting against the Afghan government and by Tuesday had carried out a series of attacks on the Kabul administration. At the time, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said Taliban fighters “will not attack foreign forces but our operations will continue against the Kabul administration forces.”

The Taliban has indicated they would not proceed into the next phase of peace talks, an intra-Afghan dialogue, until they see the release of some 5,000 imprisoned Taliban members. The Afghan government had worried that immediately releasing the prisoners would deprive them of a key bargaining chip when negotiating with the Taliban and would likely strengthen the group’s forces on the battlefield.

President Donald Trump announced to reporters on Tuesday night that he had spoken with a Taliban leader by phone in a bid to preserve the peace deal.

“I spoke to the leader of the Taliban today. We had a good conversation. We’ve agreed there is no violence,” Trump said of his talk. “We had, actually, a very good talk with the leader of the Taliban.”

The new U.S. airstrike came hours after Trump announced his phone call with the Taliban and it remains unclear if there can be a return to peace agreement.