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US Conducts Air Strike Against Taliban Fighters

The US military has conducted an air strike against Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, just hours after President Donald Trump said he had 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 called for de-escalation.

In a post on Twitter, spokesman Suhail Shaheen said the group “plans to implement all parts of the agreement one after another to prevent conflict escalation”. “The opposite side should also remove the obstacles in implementing all parts of the agreement so the way is paved for comprehensive peace and for the Afghans to have their basic rights,” he added.

It was not clear if there were any casualties.

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. On Tuesday alone, he said, the Taliban had launched 43 attacks on checkpoints belonging to Afghan forces in Helmand. “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.

The Taliban has so far declined to confirm or deny responsibility for any of the attacks.