US strike Taliban, in first hit since peace deal: official

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN: The US conducted Wednesday its first airstrike against Taliban forces in Afghanistan, a military spokesman said, days after signing an ambitious peace deal with the militant group in the Mideastern state of Qatar.

US military spokesman Col Sonny Leggett said in a tweet that the "defensive" strike was the first US attack against the militants in 11 days. He said the attack was to counter a Taliban assault on Afghan government forces in Nahr-e Saraj in the southern Helmand province.

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

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

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

The Afghan Defense Ministry said in another statement on Thursday that a Taliban attack on a checkpoint in northern Kunduz province had killed seven of its soldiers.

The statement said that ten Taliban fighters were killed in the shoot-out.

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

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

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