US strikes Taliban forces, in first hit since peace deal

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The U.S. conducted Wednesday its first airstrike against Taliban forces in Afghanistan since signing an ambitious peace deal with the militant group.

U.S. military spokesman Col. Sonny Leggett said in a tweet that the “defensive” strike was the first U.S. 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. According to a spokesman for the province's governor, Omer Zwak, at least two police officers were killed and one other wounded in the Washir district of southern Helmand.

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An Army carry team moves a transfer case containing the remains of Spc. Branden Tyme Kimball, early Friday, Feb. 14, 2020, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. According to the Department of Defense, Kimball, 21, of Central Point, Ore., died at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, from a non-combat related incident. (AP Photo/Steve Ruark)
An Army carry team moves a transfer case containing the remains of Spc. Branden Tyme Kimball, early Friday, Feb. 14, 2020, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. According to the Department of Defense, Kimball, 21, of Central Point, Ore., died at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, from a non-combat related incident. (AP Photo/Steve Ruark)
From left, General Counsel of the Army James McPherson, President Donald Trump, Army Chief of Staff Gen. James C. McConville, Vice President Mike Pence, Sgt. Maj. Michael Grinston and Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist stand during the casualty return of Sgt. 1st Class Javier J. Gutierrez and Sgt. 1st Class Antonio Rey Rodriguez, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. According to the Department of Defense, Gutierrez, 28, of San Antonio, and Rodriguez, 28, of Las Cruces, N.M., died in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained during combat operations. (AP Photo/Steve Ruark)
An Army carry team marches away from transfer cases containing the remains of Sgt. 1st Class Antonio Rey Rodriguez, left case, and Sgt. 1st Class Javier Jaguar Gutierrez, right case, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. According to the Department of Defense, Rodriguez, 28, of Las Cruces, N.M., and Gutierrez, 28, of San Antonio, died in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained during combat operations. (AP Photo/Steve Ruark)
President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence watches as a U.S. Army carry team salutes the transfer case's containing the remains of Sgt. 1st Class Javier Gutierrez, of San Antonio, Texasa and Sgt. 1st Class Antonio Rodriguez, of Las Cruces, N.M., Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. According to the Department of Defense both died Saturday, Feb. 8, during combat in Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
This image provided by the U.S. Army Special Operations Command shows Sgt. 1st Class Antonio R. Rodriguez, 28, of Las Cruces, New Mexico, who died Feb. 8, 2020 from wounds sustained during combat operations in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan. (US Army Special Operations Command via AP)
In this undated photo provided by the U.S. Air Force, fallen Air Force Capt. Ryan Phaneuf, 30, of Hudson, N.H., is seated in an aircraft. The Pentagon on Wednesday, Jan. 29, released the names of two Air Force officers killed in the Monday, Jan. 27, 2020 crash of their Bombardier E-11A electronic surveillance plane, in Ghazni Province, in eastern Afghanistan. An American official added that there were no indications so far the plane had been brought down by enemy fire. (U.S. Air Force Photo via AP)
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, center, walks Gen. Scott Miller, right, chief of the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan, at the U.S. military headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019. Esper arrived Sunday in Afghanistan, where stalled peace talks with the Taliban and persistent violent attacks by the insurgent group and Islamic State militants have complicated the Trump administration’s pledge to withdraw more than 5,000 American troops. He told reporters traveling with him that he believes the U.S. can reduce its force in Afghanistan without hurting the counterterrorism fight against al-Qaida and the Islamic State group. (AP Photo/Lolita C. Balbor)
This August, 2019 photo provided by the Nevada Army National Guard shows Sgt. 1st Class Benjamin Hopper of the Nevada Army National Guard at a deployment ceremony in Nevada. Hopper, who is serving in Afghanistan, has received a uniform religious exception to sport a beard based upon his Norse pagan beliefs. He is the first guard soldier to receive a religious accommodation approval for a beard. (Sgt. 1st Class Erick Studenicka/Nevada Army National Guard via AP)
An Army carry team moves a transfer case containing the remains of Sgt. 1st Class Elis Barreto Ortiz, 34, from Morovis, Puerto Rico, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. According to the Department of Defense, Ortiz was killed in action Sept. 5, when a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle in Kabul, Afghanistan. Ortiz was supporting Operation Freedom's Sentinel. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
Resolute Support (RS) forces guard at the site of a car bomb explosion in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019. The Afghan government says at least 10 civilians are dead and another 42 wounded after a Taliban suicide car bombing rocked the Afghan capital near a neighborhood housing the U.S. Embassy and the NATO Resolute Support mission. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)
Resolute Support (RS) forces arrive at the site of a car bomb explosion in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019. A car bomb rocked the Afghan capital on Thursday and smoke rose from a part of eastern Kabul near a neighborhood housing the U.S. Embassy, the NATO Resolute Support mission and other diplomatic missions. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)
In this Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019, photo, An Afghan man reads a local newspaper about peace in Kabul, Afghanistan. For almost a year, Afghanistan’s more than 30 million people have been in the awkward position of waiting as a United States envoy and the Taliban negotiate their country’s fate behind closed doors. An agreement on ending America’s longest war, which the U.S. once hoped to reach by Sunday, Sept. 1, not only could set a timeline for U.S. troops’ withdrawal but also nudge aside this month’s presidential election and open the way for a Taliban return to power. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)
An Army carry team moves a transfer case containing the remains of Army Master Sgt. Jose Gonzalez, 35, of La Puente, Calif., past Vice President Mike Pence, Friday, Aug. 23, 2019, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. According to the Department of Defense, Gonzalez died as a result of wounds sustained from small arms fire while engaged in combat operations in Faryab Province, Afghanistan, while supporting Operation Freedom's Sentinel. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
This undated photo provided by the U.S. Department of Defense shows Master Sgt. Luis F. Deleon-Figueroa. Master Sgt. Luis F. Deleon-Figueroa, 31, and Master Sgt. Jose J. Gonzalez, 35, died as a result of small arms fire in northern Faryab Province. Both were members of 7th Special Forces Group, which is based at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. The deaths came as United States envoy Zalmay Khalilzad resumed negotiations with the Taliban Thursday aimed at ending America's longest war. (U.S. Department of Defense via AP)
Shawn Gregoire, second from right, mother of U.S. Army Spc. Michael Nance, along with his brother and father, far left, and others watch as a U.S. Army carry team moves the transfer case containing the remains of Nance during a dignified transfer at Chicago Midway International Airport, Friday, Aug. 9, 2019, in Chicago. Nance died July 29 of wounds sustained in a combat-related incident in Tarin Kowt, in southern Afghanistan. (Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune via AP, Pool)
This January 2002 photo provided by the Alexandria Sheriff's Office in Alexandria, Va. shows John Walker Lindh. Lindh, the young Californian who became known as the American Taliban after he was captured by U.S. forces in the invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, is set to go free Thursday, May 23, 2019, after nearly two decades in prison. (Alexandria Sheriff's Office via AP)
A U.S. Marine Corps carry team moves a transfer case containing the remains of Staff Sgt. Christopher A. Slutman, Thursday, April 11, 2019, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. According to the Department of Defense, Slutman, of Newark, Del., was among three American service members killed by a roadside bomb on Monday, April 8, 2019, near Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Afghans watch a civilian vehicle burnt after being shot by US forces following an attack near the Bagram Air Base, north of Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, April 9, 2019. Three American service members and a U.S. contractor were killed when their convoy hit a roadside bomb on Monday near the main U.S. base in Afghanistan, the U.S. forces said. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)
An Afghan security force hold bullet shell a day after an attack near the Bagram Air Base, north of Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, April 9, 2019. Three American service members and a U.S. contractor were killed when their convoy hit a roadside bomb on Monday near the main U.S. base in Afghanistan, the U.S. forces said. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)
Vice President Mike Pence stands at attention as a U.S. Army carry team moves a transfer case containing the remains of Spc. Joseph P. Collette, Sunday, March 24, 2019, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. According to the Department of Defense, Collette, of Lancaster, Ohio, was killed March 22 while involved in combat operations in Kunduz Province, Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
A U.S. Army carry team moves a transfer case containing the remains of Spc. Joseph P. Collette, Sunday, March 24, 2019, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. According to the Department of Defense, Collette, of Lancaster, Ohio, was killed March 22 while involved in combat operations in Kunduz Province, Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan, left, arrives in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday morning, Feb. 11, 2019, to consult with Army Gen. Scott Miller, right, commander of U.S. and coalition forces, and senior Afghan government leaders. The unannounced visit is the first for the acting secretary of defense, Pat Shanahan. He previously was the No. 2 official under Jim Mattis, who resigned as defense chief in December. (AP Photo/Robert Burns)
This undated image provided by the U.S. Army shows Sgt. 1st Class Elliott J. Robbins, who died Sunday, June, 30, 2019, of non-combat injuries in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan. Robbins, 31, from Ogden, Utah, and was assigned to the 10th Special Forces Group. (U.S. Army via AP)
From left, Gov. Gary Herbert, Lt. Gov. Spencer J. Cox, Maj. Gen. Jefferson S. Burton, Civilian Aid to the Secretary of the Army John Edwards, and Brig. Gen. Christine Burckle salute as members of the Utah National Guard Honor Guard carry a casket containing the remains of Maj. Brent R. Taylor at at the National Guard base Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018. in Salt Lake City. The remains of a Utah mayor killed while serving in the National Guard in Afghanistan were returned to his home state on Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018, as hundreds of soldiers saluted while his casket covered in an American flag was carried across a tarmac and into a hearse. (Matt Herp/Standard-Examiner, via, Pool)
In this September 2, 2018 photo, provided by the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army Gen. Scott Miller, commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, delivers remarks during the Resolute Support mission change of command ceremony in Kabul, Afghanistan. Afghan officials said Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018 that three top Kandahar province officials have been killed by their own guards in an attack at a security meeting that also wounded two U.S. troops. A Taliban spokesman who claimed responsibility for the attack tells The Associated Press that Miller, was the target. NATO officials say Miller escaped unharmed. (U.S. Air Force/Tech. Sgt. Sharida Jackson, via AP)
A U.S. Army soldier sings a song during the change of command ceremony at Resolute Support headquarters, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Sept. 2, 2018. U.S. Army Gen. Austin Miller has assumed command of the 41-nation NATO mission in Afghanistan following a handover ceremony. (AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini)
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Leggett called on the Taliban to stop the attacks and uphold their commitments based on the peace agreement signed on Feb. 29 between their leaders and U.S. 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 U.S. president believed to have ever spoken directly with the militant group responsible for the deaths of thousands of U.S. troops in nearly 19 years of fighting in Afghanistan.

The Afghan Interior Ministry says that four civilians and 11 troops were killed Wednesday in a wave of Taliban attacks across the country in the past 24 hours.

According to ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi, Afghan forces killed at least 17 Taliban during these clashes.

The Afghan Defense Ministry earlier said that seven soldiers were killed when Taliban attacked a checkpoint in northern Kunduz province.

Kandahar police spokesman Jamal Naser Barekzai told The Associated Press that a police officer was killed and one wounded in a string of Taliban attacks across the province.

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

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

Based on the U.S.-Taliban deal, peace negotiations between the warring Afghan sides are supposed to begin on March 10. However, the Afghan government has already rejected releasing Taliban prisoners ahead of launching the talks, a precondition which the militants say was part of the U.S. agreement.

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

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