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Attack, Counter-attack Threaten Peace Efforts in Afghanistan

The United States struck at Taliban forces in Afghanistan on Wednesday, with a US military spokesman saying the Taliban were “actively attacking” an Afghan military checkpoint in the southern Helmand Province. “This was a defensive strike to disrupt the attack,” tweeted Col. Sonny Leggett, a spokesman for US forces based in the southeast Asian country. The Taliban attack and the US counter-attack were the first major tests for an agreement signed by the two sides on Saturday aimed at encouraging peace talks in Afghanistan and a withdrawal of US-led foreign forces. The agreement was predicated on a test-period of seven days calling for a “reduction in violence.” The partial-truce period saw several incidents, but nothing that delayed Saturday’s signing ceremony in Doha, Qatar. It is understood that the “reduction in violence” was expected to continue as part of the accord, although the Taliban claim it pertain only to attacks against foreign forces. The Taliban also say the peace talks will be held up until the government in Kabul releases some 5,000 prisoners. The Doha pact called for a mutual release, but Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who was not a party to the agreement, has been refusing to release anyone, saying this will have to wait until the peace talks.