US carries out air strikes on Taliban in Helmand

The United States carried out several airstrikes against Taliban fighters in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province, the spokesman for the US military in Afghanistan said on Monday.

The strikes, carried out over the last two days, mark a rare military intervention by the US since it signed an agreement on troop withdrawal with the Taliban in February.

Col Sonny Leggett, the spokesman for the US military in Afghanistan, on Twitter confirmed that the American forces conducted over the past couple days several airstrikes in support of Afghan security force under attack by Taliban in the southern Helmand province.

Legget also said that the strikes over the past two days in Helmand did not violate the US-Taliban agreement signed in February.

“Over the past two days USFOR-A has conducted several targeted strikes in Helmand to defend ANDSF forces under attack by Taliban fighters, consistent with the US-Taliban agrmnt. USFOR-A has & will continue to provide support in defense of the ANDSF under attack by the Taliban,” Col Sonny Leggett tweeted.

“The Taliban need to immediately stop their offensive actions in Helmand Province and reduce their violence around the country. It is not consistent with the US-Taliban agreement and undermines the ongoing Afghan Peace Talks,” Leggett, in another tweet, said quoting Gen Scott Miller, the Commander of the US Forces in Afghanistan.

Leggett said that US forces have and will continue to provide support in defense of Afghan national security forces under attack by the Taliban.

The announcement of US strikes comes after a gun battle on Monday was reported in and around Lashkar Gah, the capital city of Helmand province.

Eyewitnesses said there is sporadic shooting inside the city and residents have fled from the Nad Ali and Nawa districts because of the fighting.

Omer Zwak, spokesman for the provincial governor in Helmand, said Taliban fighters had started their coordinated attacks in different parts of the province over the past week and that these had intensified over the weekend.

“The Taliban have destroyed several bridges over the main highway, so the highway is closed right now and no one can travel,” said Zwak.

Representatives of the Afghan government and the Taliban are holding intra-Afghan negotiations in Qatar, a Mideast country where the Taliban have had a political office for many years.

The negotiations are meant to end the country’s decades-long long war, following a US-Taliban peace deal signed in February in Doha, Qatar’s capital.

(With inputs from AP

US carries out air strikes on Taliban in Helmand