US military defends air strikes that Taliban says violate troop pact

A US drone lands in one of Afghanistan’s airports on this Oct. 2, 2015 photo. (AFP)
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Updated 19 October 2020

US military defends air strikes that Taliban says violate troop pact

  • The Taliban launched a major offensive in the southern province of Helmand in a bid to take its capital
  • This prompted US air strikes in support of Afghan security forces

KABUL: The US military defended on Sunday its air strikes against Taliban fighters last week, as the insurgent group accused Washington of violating a signed agreement.
The Taliban launched a major offensive in the southern province of Helmand in a bid to take its capital, prompting US air strikes in support of Afghan security forces, which were being overrun.
“American forces have violated the Doha agreement in various forms by carrying out excessive air strikes following the new developments in Helmand,” Taliban spokesman Qari Muhammad Yousuf Ahmadi said in a statement.
The US-Taliban pact, signed in Doha, provides for foreign forces to leave Afghanistan in exchange for security guarantees and a pledge from the insurgents to sit down with the Afghan government to find a peaceful settlement to decades of war.
Col. Sonny Leggett, a spokesman for the US forces, denied that the strikes violated the deal.
“The entire world has witnessed the Taliban’s offensive operations in Helmand – attacks which injured and displaced thousands of innocent Afghan civilians,” Leggett said on Twitter, reiterating a call for “all sides” to reduce violence.
US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who met the Taliban last week in Doha, the capital of Qatar, to agree to a ‘reset’ of their commitments, said violence was still too high.
“Unfounded charges of violations and inflammatory rhetoric do not advance peace,” he said on Twitter on Monday, urging strict adherence to the troop withdrawal deal and a gradual easing of violence.
While last week’s major fighting in Helmand has simmered down, violence elsewhere continues.
Since Saturday, Taliban clashes with security forces in several districts of northeastern Badakhshan, including its capital of Faizabad, have killed at least four of the forces.
Talks between Taliban and Afghan government negotiators began last month in Doha, but the process has only moved slowly, while violence escalated, a factor diplomats and officials have said is sapping the trust needed for negotiations to succeed.


3 funeral workers fired over Maradona coffin photos

Updated 8 min 56 sec ago

3 funeral workers fired over Maradona coffin photos

  • The images distributed across social media created outrage, even death threats, across a nation that venerated Maradona
  • Claudio Fernández confirmed that he’d lost his job at the Pinier funeral home, along with his son Ismael and Claudio Medina

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina: Three funeral workers have been fired for posing for photos alongside the body of soccer star Diego Maradona shortly before his funeral.
The images distributed across social media created outrage, even death threats, across a nation that venerated Maradona, who died Wednesday of a heart attack at age 60. Tens of thousands lined up for a chance to file past his body at the nation’s presidential palace on Thursday.
Claudio Fernández confirmed to Radio Diez on Friday that he’d lost his job at the Pinier funeral home, along with his son Ismael and Claudio Medina.
One of the images shows Fernández and his son — smiling and with thumb raised — alongside Maradona’s body in the coffin on Thursday. Medina appears in another in the same pose.
Fernández insisted that he hadn’t known they’d planned to take a photograph, much less distribute it. “It was something instantaneous. I’d just raised my head and my son did it like any kid of 18,” he told the radio station.
He said he had been receiving threats from others living in the El Paternal neighborhood where Maradona debuted as a professional in 1976 with the Argentinos Juniors team.
“They know me. I’m from the neighborhood,” Fernández said. “They say they are going to kill us, break our heads.”
The team issued a statement saying it was considering expelling Fernández from its membership rolls.