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US Launches First Taliban Air Strikes Since Afghan Ceasefire End

The US launched its first air strikes against the Taliban since a rare ceasefire between the insurgents and Afghan forces ended more than a week ago, the US military said Friday.

The two assaults took place on Thursday and Friday in separate provinces in Afghanistan, US forces spokesman Sonny Leggett said on Twitter.

“These were the 1st US airstrikes against (the Taliban) since the start of the Eid ceasefire,” he wrote. “We reiterate: All sides must reduce violence to allow the peace process to take hold,” he added.

Ten members of the Afghan forces were killed on Friday in a separate attack targeting a Humvee vehicle, the Interior Ministry said, blaming the assault on the Taliban. There was no immediate comment from the group.

The Taliban announced a surprise three-day ceasefire with Afghan forces that ended on May 26 to mark the Eid al-Fitr holiday. There has since been an overall drop in violence across the country, with the Afghan government saying it is ready to start long-delayed peace talks with the insurgents.

Washington signed a landmark deal with the Taliban in February, in which it pledged to withdraw all US troops in return for security guarantees in a bid to pave the way for negotiations between warring Afghan sides.

The Taliban have largely refrained from launching major attacks on Afghan cities since the deal was signed, but have continued to target Afghan forces.

Under the agreement, which excluded the Afghan government, Washington and the militants said they would refrain from attacking each other. However, the Pentagon last month said it would continue to conduct defensive strikes against the Taliban when they attack Afghan partners.

February will see all US and foreign forces quit Afghanistan over the next year. Thousands of US troops have already gone, with a senior US defense official last month putting the number of troops left in the country at approximately 8,500.

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