US forces hit Taliban with air strikes in Helmand

LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan (AP) - American forces have carried out several air strikes in the past few days in support of Afghan security forces attacked by the Taliban in southern Helmand province, the U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan said Monday.
Col. Sonny Leggett confirmed on his Twitter account that the strikes in Helmand over the past two days have not violated the US-Taliban agreement signed in February.
“The Taliban must immediately stop their offensive actions in Helmand Province and reduce their violence across the country. It is inconsistent with the US-Taliban agreement and undermines the ongoing Afghan peace talks, "Leggett's tweet quoted General Scott Miller, commander of the US forces in Afghanistan.
Leggett said US forces have provided and continue to provide assistance in the defense of the Afghan National Security Forces under attack by the Taliban.
The announcement of US strikes comes after a gun battle was reported on Monday in and around Lashkar Gah, capital of Helmand province.
Eyewitnesses said there were sporadic shooting in the city and residents had fled Nad Ali and Nawa districts because of the fighting.
Omer Zwak, spokesman for the provincial governor in Helmand, said Taliban fighters had launched their coordinated attacks in different parts of the province last week and intensified them over the weekend.
"The Taliban destroyed several bridges over the main road, so the highway is currently closed and no one can travel," said Zwak.
Representatives of the Afghan government and the Taliban are conducting intra-Afghan negotiations in Qatar, a country in the Middle East where the Taliban have held political office for many years. The negotiations are set to end the country's decades-long war after a peace agreement between the US and the Taliban was signed in Doha, Qatar's capital, in February.
Associate press writer Rahim Faiez contributed from Kabul, Afghanistan.

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