KABUL, Afghanistan — The United States conducted an airstrike against Taliban fighters in southern Afghanistan Wednesday, March 4, just days after the two sides signed a peace deal.
The strike comes just hours after President Donald Trump spoke to senior Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar by phone Tuesday. Trump said he had "a very good talk" with the militant's senior political leader and said the two men agreed on "no violence, we don't want violence."
The U.S. military spokesman in Kabul said the strike was carried out in defense of Afghan security forces when their outpost in Helmand came under attack by Taliban fighters.
"This was a defensive strike to disrupt the attack. This was our 1st strike against the Taliban in 11 days," said Col. Sonny Leggett in a statement on Twitter.
The US conducted an airstrike on March 4 against Taliban fighters in Nahr-e Saraj, Helmand, who were actively attacking an #ANDSF checkpoint. This was a defensive strike to disrupt the attack. This was our 1st strike against the Taliban in 11 days.— USFOR-A Spokesman Col Sonny Leggett (@USFOR_A) March 4, 2020
The strike comes amid an uptick in violence nationwide in Afghanistan over the past two days. On Monday the Taliban announced it had resumed offensive operations against Afghan security forces. Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, said the "reduction-in-violence period is over."
Over the past 24 hours, the Taliban have conducted 30 attacks that have killed four civilians, 11 security forces and wounded 18 others, according to Nasrat Rahimi, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry.
In one attack in Kunduz, at least eight soldiers were killed overnight, according to Ghulam Rabbani, a local lawmaker.
The attack started around midnight and lasted over two hours, "the sound of rocket fire and light weapons could be heard throughout the city," he said.
The peace deal signed between the U.S. and the Taliban called for the full withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan within 14 months. A critical precondition to the signing of the deal was a week of decreased violence across Afghanistan. But the agreement did not address violence levels moving forward.
Regardless, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan has said violence levels were expected to remain low.
"Taliban leadership promised the int'l community they would reduce violence and not increase attacks. We call on the Taliban to stop needless attacks and uphold their commitments. As we have demonstrated, we will defend our partners when required," Leggett, the U.S. military spokesman said on Twitter Wednesday.
The increased violence comes as Afghan government and Taliban leaders are locked in disagreement over a controversial prisoner exchange that could determine the future of peace talks moving forward.
The U.S.-Taliban peace deal called for the prisoner exchange to take place before intra-Afghan talks on March 10. But Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has ruled that out. The Taliban responded that the movement would not enter into talks with the Afghan government without a prisoner swap first.
This article was written by Susannah George, a reporter for The Washington Post. The Washington Post's Sharif Hassan contributed this report.