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US hit Taliban with 'first airstrike in 11 days' after failed peace deal

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Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, center, arrives with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, and U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper for a joint news conference, Feb 29, 2020
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, center, arrives with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, and U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper for a joint news conference, Feb 29, 2020   -   Copyright  Rahmat Gul/Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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The US military announced that they conducted an airstrike against Taliban fighters on Wednesday in Helmand province in the wake of a failed peace deal.

Colonel Sonny Leggett tweeted on Wednesday morning that the fighters were attacking a position held by the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF).

Leggett added that Taliban forces had conducted 43 attacks on Afghan troops on Tuesday in Helmand.

The spokesman called on the Taliban to stop the attacks and uphold their commitments based on the agreement signed on Feb. 29 between their leaders and U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in Doha, Qatar, which lays out a conditions-based path to the withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan.

The Taliban have not claimed responsibility for any of these attacks so far or commented on the U.S. airstrike Wednesday.

However, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told the AP Wednesday that a week of reduction in violence that started midnight on Feb. 21 had ended.

Based on the U.S.-Taliban deal, peace negotiations between the warring Afghan sides are supposed to begin on March 10. However, the Afghan government has already rejected releasing Taliban prisoners ahead of launching the talks, a precondition which the militants say was part of the U.S. agreement.

Leggett said that U.S. forces are responsible for defending their Afghan allies according to agreements between U.S. and Afghan governments.

President Donald Trump confirmed Tuesday that he spoke on the phone to a Taliban leader, making him the first U.S. president believed to have ever spoken directly with the militant group responsible for the deaths of thousands of U.S. troops in nearly 19 years of fighting in Afghanistan.

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