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Afghan peace deal in tatters after US air stikes

AN Afghan peace deal appears to be in tatters after a US air strike hit Taliban forces in Helmand province today, hours after a phone call between the Islamist guerilla movement and President Donald Trump.

Mr Trump described his Tuesday night conversation with Taliban chief negotiator Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar as “a good talk.”

But the following morning, a US drone struck Taliban militants as they were attacking an Afghan security post in Nahr-e Saraj. It was one of dozens of Taliban assaults on government forces since the peace deal was signed in Doha on February 29.

The Taliban insisted that the agreement only applied to international forces and were angered by the government’s refusal to release 5,000 captured  Taliban fighters as a prerequisite for intra-Afghan talks.

“This was a defensive strike to disrupt the attack. This was our first strike against the Taliban in 11 days,” said US military spokesman Colonel Sonny Leggett .

"On March 3 alone, the Taliban conducted 43 attacks on [Afghan security force] checkpoints in Helmand,” he added. “The Taliban claim to be fighting to free Afghan from international forces, [but] the February 29 agreement provides a conditions-based path to withdrawal.”

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