The US military has conducted an airstrike against Taliban fighters in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, jeopardizing a fragile ceasefire and Donald Trump’s much-touted peace roadmap for Afghanistan.
A spokesman for US forces said that an airstrike had targeted Taliban fighters in Nahr-e Saraj, Helmand, who were “actively attacking” an Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) checkpoint. The Pentagon insisted the strike was defensive and aimed at “disrupting” the Taliban assault, claiming that it was the first US attack on the Taliban in eleven days.
The spokesman also called on the Taliban to stop “needless attacks” and to uphold their side of the ceasefire.
The militants reportedly killed around 20 Afghan soldiers and policemen in a string of overnight attacks, AFP reported, citing government officials.
The escalation comes just hours after US President Donald Trump said that he had a “good long conversation” with Taliban political chief Mullah Baradar.
The US is currently trying to broker a peace deal with the Taliban, and has pledged to withdraw from Afghanistan within 14 months if the Taliban agrees to security guarantees and talks with the government in Kabul. The deal also includes a prisoner swap, but the Afghan government has refused to comply and has argued that Washington cannot negotiate on its behalf.
Trump has billed the uneasy truce with the Taliban as a major foreign policy success. The deal, negotiated with Taliban representatives in Doha, was described by Trump as part of his administration’s efforts to “finally end America’s longest war and bring our troops back home.” However, recent attacks by the Taliban, coupled with US retaliatory measures, now raise serious doubts over whether the nearly twenty-year-long war is really in its final chapter.