US military defends air strikes that Taliban says violate troop pact

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

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.


Militants open fire and burn police car in Philippine town

Updated 04 December 2020

Militants open fire and burn police car in Philippine town

Militants open fire and burn police car in Philippine town

COTABATO, Philippines: Dozens of militants aligned with the Daesh group opened fire on a Philippine army detachment and burned a police patrol car in a southern town but withdrew after troops returned fire, officials said Friday.
There were no immediate reports of injuries in Thursday night’s brief attack by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Datu Piang town. Nevertheless it sparked panic among residents and rekindled fears of a repeat of a 2017 militant siege of southern Marawi city that lasted for five months before being quelled by government forces.
“We are on top of the situation. This is just an isolated case,” regional military commander Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan Jr. said in a statement.
Security officials gave differing statements on the motive of the 30 to 50 gunmen. Some said the militants targeted Datu Piang’s police chief over a feud but others speculated that the militants wanted to project that they are still a force to reckon with by attacking the army detachment in the center of the predominantly Muslim town.
Officials denied earlier reports that the militants managed to seize a police station and burn a Roman Catholic church.
When reinforcement troops in armored carriers arrived and opened fire, the militants fled toward a marshland, military officials said.
The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters is one of a few small armed groups waging a separatist rural insurrection in the south of the largely Roman Catholic nation. The groups opposed a 2014 autonomy deal forged by the largest Muslim rebel group in the south with the Philippine government and have continued on and off attacks despite being weakened by battle setbacks, surrenders and factionalism.
The armed groups include the Abu Sayyaf, which has been blacklisted by the United States and the Philippines as a terrorist organization for kidnappings for ransom, beheadings and bombings.