Taliban Violated Afghan Deal With Shelling of American Bases, U.S. Officials Say


KABUL, Afghanistan — Rockets launched at a U.S. military base and a joint U.S.-Afghan airfield in southern Afghanistan in current weeks are believed to have been fired by the Taliban, in accordance to 3 American military officials, in what would quantity to a clear breach of the peace agreement in between the United States and the insurgent group.

Approximately a dozen rockets struck in late July close to Camp Bastion, a sprawling air base applied by Afghan and American forces in the southern province of Helmand. And numerous rockets have been fired inside of the final week or so at Camp Dwyer, a substantial U.S. military base about 50 miles south of Bastion.

A Taliban commander acquainted with the area denied that the group had carried out any strikes on American bases in Helmand and explained that the group would investigate. The rocket strikes could also have been carried out by a Taliban faction that is towards the agreement, in accordance to one particular military official who was briefed on the matter.

There have been no U.S. casualties in both assault, nor a public response from Washington for the duration of a stretch in which American officials have struggled to preserve an currently shaky peace course of action on track.

The American-led mission in Afghanistan also declined to comment.

Helmand Province, prolonged regarded as the Taliban’s heartland and its opium-fueled economic breadbasket, is predominantly managed by the insurgent group, even though properly-armed drug barons and differing tribal affiliations guarantee that a lot of allegiances and agendas in the area are murky. Afghan government forces there are largely constrained to the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah, and some villages that serve as district centers.

The February peace deal signed in Doha, the capital of Qatar, stipulates that the Taliban would refrain from striking American or NATO forces as they steadily withdrew from the nation. And the U.S. military would assault the Taliban only to defend Afghan forces.

The Taliban, prolonged imagined to be a conglomerate of several factions with differing agendas, seem to be to have largely stayed real to the agreement as a unified front, at least publicly, when it comes to not attacking American or coalition forces. But as the Taliban have continued to mount hefty assaults towards the Afghan military forces, the United States has carried out dozens of airstrikes to assistance the Afghans, officials say.

One more sticking stage is the Taliban’s reluctance to condemn Al Qaeda, the terrorist group that carried out the attacks of Sept. eleven, 2001, and was harbored by the Taliban. A obviously defined tenet of the Feb. 29 peace agreement calls for the Taliban to sever all ties with Al Qaeda ahead of the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops. Pentagon officials feel Qaeda fighters carry on to be properly ingrained with Taliban rank and file.

Gen. Austin S. Miller, the commander of the U.S.-led mission in Afghanistan, explained final week that there was a “debate” on Taliban ties to Al Qaeda.

“There are quite rigid commitments there and they need to be upheld,” Standard Miller informed 1TV, an Afghan information outlet.

Violations of the Feb. 29 deal are usually raised privately by Taliban and U.S. officials via a communication channel established immediately after the agreement’s signing. Publicly, the Taliban have denounced the United States for carrying out airstrikes on their fighters, claiming the Americans have been violating the deal.

“This is one particular portion of a greater image,” explained Andrew Watkins, a senior analyst on Afghanistan for Crisis Group, a Brussels-primarily based conflict resolution organization.

“The military’s basic silence or lack of comment of what looks to be an ongoing dynamic in the conflict feels like a reflection of a greater trend of the Americans inclined to overlook ambiguities in how the February agreement is staying upheld in the curiosity of not jeopardizing an agreement that currently feels quite fragile.”

In the current attacks, the Taliban fired rockets from numerous miles away that have been largely inaccurate, explained one particular military official acquainted with the occasions. Just after rockets struck Camp Dwyer, American aircraft retaliated by striking the launch web-site, destroying a cluster of munitions that had but to be fired, the official explained.

Camp Dwyer, a British base that was turned in excess of to the Americans at the height of the war, is quietly getting the strategic hub for American troops remaining in southern Afghanistan.

The U.S.-led mission in Afghanistan has programs to shuttle troops to Camp Dwyer from its substantial airfield in Kandahar ahead of closing the base in Kandahar altogether in the coming months, in accordance to military officials. Beneath the February agreement, 5 American bases have been closed and handed in excess of to Afghan forces.

Camp Bastion was as soon as the logistics hub for U.S. and NATO troops in Helmand Province. Conjoined by the U.S. Marine base Camp Leatherneck, the base was handed in excess of to the Afghan safety forces in 2014.

Many months later on, as the Taliban started retaking substantially of the province, American forces returned, establishing a smaller base there and applying the airfield for helicopter refueling and other operations.

There are approximately eight,000 U.S. troops nonetheless in Afghanistan, with programs to draw down to about four,500 by the fall. 4 American services members have been killed for the duration of fight operations this yr, a comparatively smaller variety in contrast to this time in 2019, when additional than a dozen U.S. troops had currently been killed.

The Afghan government and the Taliban are stalled on the cusp of direct negotiations in Qatar as a dispute continues about a prisoner exchange on the two sides.

Beneath the deal in between the United States and the Taliban, which initiated the phased withdrawal of American troops, direct peace negotiations in between the Afghan sides have been conditioned on swapping five,000 Taliban prisoners with one,000 Afghan safety forces held by the insurgents.

Although the Taliban has launched the Afghan prisoners, President Ashraf Ghani was reluctant to release 400 Taliban prisoners accused of critical crimes till a consultative assembly, convened this month, accepted their release.

The talks have been anticipated to start in a matter of days immediately after Mr. Ghani decreed the release of the final prisoners. But new hiccups have emerged: The Afghan government has conditioned the release of the Taliban on the freeing of additional than a dozen Afghan commandos and pilots the insurgents are holding. Australia, France and the United States have also expressed issues about the release of half a dozen prisoners.

Although France and Australia do not want individuals members of the Taliban accused of attacks on their citizens launched, the United States has explained it has purpose to feel two of the Taliban fighters to be launched would join the Islamic State, a senior Afghan official explained.

Taimoor Shah contributed reporting from Kandahar, Afghanistan, and Mujib Mashal from Kabul.

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