The US launched air strikes against Taliban fighters in Helmand province of Afghanistan, days after signing a peace deal with them. The air strikes followed attacks by the Taliban on Afghan troops.
A US military spokesperson said the attacks were to defend the peace process put under strain after violence by Taliban militants against Afghan forces. US military Spokesperson Sonny Leggett said the Taliban were “actively attacking” Afghan military checkpoints in Helmand province and had killed over 20 Afghan soldiers and policemen.
US President Donald Trump signed the Doha deal with the Taliban in February to end the 18-year old conflict and pull out American troops from Afghanistan within 14 months. Trump said that the Taliban and Washington both “have a very common interest” in ending the war. For Trump, pulling US troops out from the Afghan quagmire helps him big time in the election campaign beginning later this year.
On their part, the Taliban fighters will open up talks with the Afghan government to take the peace process further. Under the deal, 5,000 Taliban prisoners will be exchanged for 1,000 people held captive by the militants. However, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani wants Taliban to open negotiations before the exchange of prisoners takes place.
But the Taliban, after signing the deal, has been claiming victory and also launched an offensive against Afghan forces, which brought US retaliation against them. The Taliban offensive also puts the nascent deal under strain.
The US had launched its war on terror in October 2001 by attacking the Taliban government in Afghanistan in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. The US had claimed at that time that Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of 9/11, was hiding in the mountains bordering Afghanistan and Pakistan. Even though the US was able to oust the Taliban and helped establish a democratic government in Afghanistan, it got bogged down in the country’s unstable politics and an unending civil war..