The US launched an airstrike against the Taliban on Thursday, a US military spokesperson said. The airstrikes come while the Trump administration is reducing troop presence in Afghanistan, with the number of US soldiers in the country expected to be down to 2,500 by January 15th.
The spokesman for US forces in Afghanistan (USFOR-A) announced the airstrike on Twitter on Friday. “USFOR-A conducted a strike against armed Taliban fighters attacking an ANDSF [Afghan government] checkpoint in Zhari district Kandahar on Dec 10,” Col. Sonny Legget wrote.
According to Afghan officials, the US airstrikes killed 30 Taliban fighters in southern Kandahar. The Taliban said the strikes hit civilian targets, killing 10 people, a claim the US and Afghan government both deny.
Since the US signed a peace deal with the Taliban in February, direct US airstrikes against the Taliban have been reduced but still happen occasionally. The US usually frames the airstrikes as defensive in nature, which Col. Legget did. He wrote that the strike was done “in defense” of the Afghan government security forces and was done in accordance “with the US-Taliban agreement.”
Legget also denied the Taliban’s claims of civilian casualties in the airstrike in his tweet. Earlier this week, Brown University’s Costs of War Project released a report that said civilian casualties in Afghanistan airstrikes skyrocketed under the Trump administration, with the number of civilians killed rising 330 percent from 2016 to 2019.
The rise in civilian deaths correlates with the US loosening the rules of engagement for the conflict. While US airstrikes have decreased this year, airstrikes from the Afghan government have risen during the intra-Afghan peace talks between the government and the Taliban that are ongoing in Doha.