Well, that was quick.
Just days after signing a peace accord with the Taliban, the U.S. conducted a defensive airstrike against Taliban forces in Afghanistan.
In a tweet this morning, U.S. military spokesman Col. Sonny Leggett said the strike was aimed at four Taliban fighters in Nahr-e Saraj, in the Helmand province, who he said were “actively attacking” an Afghan National Defense and Security Force (ANDSF) checkpoint.
Leggett said the U.S. undertook a defensive strike to disrupt the attack, and was the first strike against the Taliban in 11 days.
As further justification, Leggett said the Taliban had conducted 43 attacks on Afghan checkpoints on March 3rd alone.
Leggett noted that "Taliban leadership promised the int’l community they would reduce violence and not increase attacks. We call on the Taliban to stop needless attacks and uphold their commitments. As we have demonstrated, we will defend our partners when required.
The US conducted an airstrike on March 4 against Taliban fighters in Nahr-e Saraj, Helmand, who were actively attacking an #ANDSF checkpoint. This was a defensive strike to disrupt the attack. This was our 1st strike against the Taliban in 11 days.— USFOR-A Spokesman Col Sonny Leggett (@USFOR_A) March 4, 2020
To be clear- we are committed to peace, however we have the responsibility to defend our #ANDSF partners. #Afghans & US have complied w/ our agreements; however, Talibs appear intent on squandering this opp. and ignoring the will of the people for #peace. #Showyourcommitment— USFOR-A Spokesman Col Sonny Leggett (@USFOR_A) March 4, 2020
The weeklong truce preceding the signing of the February 29 peace agreement fell apart when the Taliban ordered its fighters on March 2 to resume operations against Afghan forces .
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.”
Per Fox News, Afghanistan’s interior ministry said four civilians and 11 troops were killed Wednesday in a wave of attacks attributed to the Taliban across the country in the past 24 hours. Afghan forces killed at least 17 Taliban members during those clashes.
As we reported here, the four-page peace agreement signed by the U.S. and the Taliban in Doha, Qatar last weekend stipulates that the U.S. pull out troops, remove economic sanctions on top Taliban leaders and release Taliban fighters IF the Taliban promises to stop aiding al-Qaeda and other international terror groups.
A key part of the agreement includes a provision to release prisoners on both sides: “The United States is committed to start immediately to work with all relevant sides on a plan to expeditiously release combat and political prisoners as a confidence building measure with the coordination and approval of all relevant sides. Up to five thousand (5,000) prisoners of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban and up to one thousand (1,000) prisoners of the other side will be released by March 10, 2020, the first day of intra-Afghan negotiations.”
Afghan leaders have already rejected the idea of releasing 5,000 Taliban prisoners before talks even begin. They worry releasing prisoners would dramatically strengthen the Taliban’s forces on the battlefield, not to mention give away a key bargaining chip for further negotiations.
Ironically, the U.S. strike came just hours after President Trump said he spoke to a Taliban leader on the phone and “had a very good talk.”
“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.”
No violence where? Sure seems like the fragile peace agreement just got even more fragile.