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U.S. airstrikes hit Taliban in Afghanistan despite peace talks

U.S. troops secure a police barracks in Helmond province, Afghanistan. U.S. forces launched a weekend airstrike against Taliban troops near the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah. Photo courtesy of U.S. Army 
U.S. troops secure a police barracks in Helmond province, Afghanistan. U.S. forces launched a weekend airstrike against Taliban troops near the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah. Photo courtesy of U.S. Army 

Oct. 12 (UPI) -- Weekend U. S. airstrikes on the Taliban in Afghanistan's Helmond province were consistent with a U.S.-Taliban peace agreement, the Pentagon said on Monday.

Targeted airstrikes followed heavy clashes in the suburbs of Lashkar Gah, Helmond's capital. The Taliban offensive overran security checkpoints and essentially cut off the city of about 200,000.

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"[The Taliban] have blocked most of the entrances and exits to the city," Bashir Ahmad Shakir, a former Helmond legislator, told the New York Times. "The officials were in deep slumber. The military officials only realized it when the Taliban were almost stepping in to the gates of Lashkar Gah."

Numerous attacks were reported across Afghanistan over the weekend, including a Taliban mortar volley which killed five civilians near the city of Kunduz.

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The peace agreement, signed in September, includes language allowing a U.S. military response if Afghan troops came under attack. A Twitter message by Defense Department spokesman Col. Sonny Leggett noted that United States Forces-Afghanistan "has and will continue to provide support" to the Afghan Nation Security Forces.

Another tweet by Leggett included a demand that the Taliban halt its Helmond province offensive.

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U.S. President Donald Trump has said that all U.S. troops in Afghanistan will be withdrawn by May 2021, and surprised his own military leaders last week by announcing a withdrawal by Christmas 2020.

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