US launches first Taliban air strikes since Afghan ceasefire end

Afghan Taliban fighters listen to Mullah Mohammed Rasool, who was elected leader of a breakaway faction of the Taliban, in Farah province, Afghanistan in November, 2017. (AP/ File Photo))
Short Url
Updated 06 June 2020

US launches first Taliban air strikes since Afghan ceasefire end

  • Taliban had announced a surprise three-day Eid ceasefire with Afghan forces that ended on May 26
  • The group has argely refrained from launching major attacks on Afghan cities since the peace deal was signed

KABUL: The US launched its first air strikes against the Taliban since a rare cease-fire between the insurgents and Afghan forces ended more than a week ago, the US military said Friday.
The two assaults took place on Thursday and Friday in separate provinces in Afghanistan, US forces spokesman Sonny Leggett said on Twitter.
“These were the 1st US airstrikes against (the Taliban) since the start of the Eid cease-fire,” he wrote.
“We reiterate: All sides must reduce violence to allow the peace process to take hold,” he added.
Ten members of the Afghan forces were killed on Friday in a separate attack targeting a Humvee vehicle, the Interior Ministry said, blaming the assault on the Taliban.
There was no immediate comment from the group.
The Taliban announced a surprise three-day cease-fire with Afghan forces that ended on May 26 to mark the Eid Al-Fitr holiday.
There has since been an overall drop in violence across the country, with the Afghan government saying it is ready to start long-delayed peace talks with the insurgents.
The US negotiator with the Taliban, Zalmay Khalilzad, left Friday for the region to discuss “the practical next steps necessary for a smooth start to intra-Afghan negotiations,” the State Department said.
He will visit Kabul as well as Qatar, where he regularly meets the Taliban, as well as Pakistan, the historic ally of the insurgents.
Washington signed a landmark deal with the Taliban in February, in which the United States pledged to withdraw all its troops in return for security guarantees in a bid to pave the way for negotiations between warring Afghan sides.
The Taliban have largely refrained from launching major attacks on Afghan cities since the deal was signed, but have continued to target Afghan forces.
Under the agreement, which excluded the Afghan government, Washington and the militants said they would refrain from attacking each other.
However, the Pentagon last month said it would continue to conduct defensive strikes against the Taliban when they attack Afghan partners.
The February deal will see all US and foreign forces quit Afghanistan by mid-2021, nearly 20 years after Washington first invade.
Thousands of US troops have already gone, with a senior US defense official last month putting the number left in the country at approximately 8,500.


Russia announces coronavirus deaths exceed 10,000

Updated 4 min 38 sec ago

Russia announces coronavirus deaths exceed 10,000

  • Russia has confirmed 674,515 cases, the third largest total in the world, although the daily infection rate has been falling over the last month
MOSCOW: Russia on Saturday said that it recorded more than 10,000 deaths from the coronavirus pandemic, a toll that is still far lower than in other countries with major outbreaks.
The number of deaths has now reached 10,027, the government information website said, up by 168 from Friday.
Russia has confirmed 674,515 cases, the third largest total in the world, although the daily infection rate has been falling over the last month.
The country’s death toll is much lower than in other countries with large outbreaks, raising questions over possible underreporting of deaths.
Russia has acknowledged that the death figure on the government website only includes cases where the virus was classed as the main cause of death on the death certificate.
The official statistics agency has released national death data for April alone, where the toll — of 2,712 — is more than double the government’s total of 1,152 for that month.
That is because it uses a broader definition on the basis of World Health Organization recommendations and includes cases where the victim tested positive but the virus was not classified as the main cause of death, or where there was no positive test but an autopsy ruled the virus was the main cause of death.
Moscow city health department also released data on deaths in May using this method of classification, showing 5,260 virus-related deaths that month.
By contrast, the government website still says that some 3,929 people in total have died so far from the virus just in Moscow.