US strikes Taliban in Afghanistan despite Trump talking with one of their...

US strikes Taliban in Afghanistan despite Trump talking with one of their leaders

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Defense Secretary Mark Esper speaks at the U.S.-Afghanistan Joint Declaration Announcement at the Dilkusha Mansion Garden, Kabul, Afghanistan, Feb. 29, 2020. (DoD photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Nicole Mejia)

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon launched an airstrike against Taliban forces Wednesday morning, the first military action against the group since the two entities signed a preliminary peace deal on Saturday.

Military officials said in a statement the airstrike was conducted against four Taliban fighters in Nahr-e Saraj, in the Helmand province, who were “actively attacking” an Afghan National Defense and Security Force (ANDSF) checkpoint.

The US-Taliban accord does not include the Afghan government nor its military forces.

It was the first U.S. strike against the Taliban in 11 days, compared to 43 attacks on Afghan troops on Tuesday in the same province, U.S. military spokesman Col. Sonny Leggett said Wednesday.

Meanwhile, President Trump told White House reporters on Tuesday that he spoke on the phone to a Taliban leader. That would make him the first U.S. president believed to have spoken directly to the enemy group in almst 19 years of fighting in Afghanistan.

“I spoke to the leader of the Taliban today,” Trump told reporters, according to news reports. “We had a very good talk.”

No ground was given by the Taliban, according to news reports.

James Dobbins, a former U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, said he was confident no prior U.S. president had such contact, which he said was  Trump’s “showmanship.

“Talking to the president is … a major deliverable. Prior administrations would consider this selling one’s self cheaply, or selling a considerable asset at considerably below value,” Dobbins told Reuters.

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