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US, Taliban at odds over peace deal

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KABUL: The Taliban and the US have been incriminating each other for violating their historic peace agreement signed in February amid a cascade of militant attacks and US airstrikes in southern Helmand province.

The US forces in a rare incident carried out several airstrikes in Helmand to help Afghan security forces thwart the Taliban attacks in the province after the militants staged a full-blown offensive there.

In response to a recent Taliban claim that the US has violated the February with the airstrikes, the US Forces spokesman Col Sonny Leggett said on Monday that U.S. airstrikes in Helmand and Farah have been and continue to be solely in defense of the Afghan security forces as they are being attacked by the Taliban.

“We categorically reject the Taliban’s claim the United States has violated the U.S.-Taliban agreement. These strikes are consistent with both the U.S.-Taliban Agreement and the Joint Declaration between the Afghan government and the United States,” he said.

The entire world has witnessed the Taliban’s offensive operations in Helmand– attacks which injured and displaced thousands of innocent Afghan civilians. We reiterate our call for all sides to reduce the violence to allow the political process to take hold, he said.

Spokesman of the Taliban group, Zabihullah Mujahid, has said the US bombings on militant positions in Helmand clearly violate US-Taliban peace deal signed in February.

Following a full-blown attack of the Taliban on Helmand province early last week, intense fighting has continued there and hundreds of Afghan forces were drafted in the province to push the militants back. The US forces carried out several airstrikes on the Taliban to help Afghan security forces advance in the conflict zones and gain leverage over and oust the militants.

“Over the past few days, drone and other fighter aircrafts have carried out attacks during day and night times in Nahr Siraj, Khushkawa, Babji, Malgir, Band-e-Barq areas of Greshk and various areas of Sangin, Marjah, Nawa and Nad Ali districts,” said Zabihullah Mujahid in a tweet.

He said “the US-Taliban agreement is unambiguous”, accusing the United States of violating its commitments, “engaging in provocative actions and bombing non-combat zones”.

The Taliban posturing came after a recrimination from the US officials who said the Taliban had violated their agreement by attacking Helmand province.

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