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First US air strikes on Taliban since ceasefire

KABUL: The US launched its first air strikes against the Taliban since a rare ceasefire between the militants and Afghan forces, the US military said on 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 air strikes 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.”

Leggett said that an air strike was carried out against 25 armed Taliban fighters executing a coordinated attack on an Afghan force checkpoint in Farah province in the west. He said a second attack was conducted in Kandahar in the south.

He did not give casualty figures, and a Taliban spokesman refused to comment on the strikes, which were conducted at a time when the United States is steadily pulling its troops out of Afghanistan.

The Taliban announced a surprise three-day ceasefire with Afghan forces to mark the Eidul 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.

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