US hits Taliban with airstrikes after peace deal

A new peace deal to end the war in Afghanistan seemed to be falling apart as the US carried out fresh air raids against the Taliban this week.“The US conducted an air strike on March 4 against Taliban fighters in Nahr-e Saraj, Helmand, who were actively attacking an ANDSF (Afghan National Defence and Security Forces) checkpoint,” said Colonel Sonny Leggett in a tweet, adding that it was a “defensive strike”.The raids came after Taliban fighters carried out 43 attacks on checkpoints in Helmand. The fresh violence erupted after the government refused to take a call on a prisoner-swap proposal before a crucial meeting of the Afghan regional leaders, due on March 10.

The US and the Taliban had signed a deal in Doha on February 29 to end their nearly 19-year-old war in Afghanistan. A police spokesman told the AFP news agency that Taliban has launched intense attacks on military bases in Helmand over the past two days, killing at least 20 soldiers and cops. Mr Leggett has called on the Taliban to stop “needless attacks”.

Taliban-US deal

The deal paves the way for the withdrawal of US and NATO troops from Afghanistan over the next 14 months. The agreement is incumbent on the Taliban’s commitment on terrorism and ensuring the areas under its control are not used for plotting against the United States.Hailing the deal, President Donald Trump said: “It is time to bring our people back home, time for someone else to do that work.” “I really believe the Taliban wants to do something to show we’re not all wasting time. And if bad things happen, we’ll go back with a force like no-one’s ever seen,” he added.The Afghan war, the US’ longest and one of the bloodiest in recent history, killed nearly 100,000 people, including civilians, coalition and Afghan troops since it began in 2001 to hunt down then Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden after the terrorist attacks on the US.

India’s Reaction

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said that the western powers must ensure that the achievements made over the past 18 years in Afghanistan aren’t jeopardized. “To the US and to the West, our message has been that the achievements of the last 18 years, it is in the global interest that those achievements are secured and protected, they are not jeopardized in the process of whatever they do,” Mr Jaishankar said at an event in Delhi.

Mr Jaishankar stressed that the recent events did not come as a surprise since “everybody knew something like this was happening”; however, he said only time will tell the outcome of these actions, referring to the standing issues such as cohesion among the stakeholders, and whether the Taliban would join a democratic set-up. “There is a lot of interest in various countries that the neighbors of Afghanistan and those who have interests there also play some role,”  the said.


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