The Taliban has blamed the United States forces in Afghanistan for violating the deal the two sides signed in Doha back in February, something that critics say will further complicate the ongoing peace efforts in the war-hit country.
The group issued a statement on Sunday, saying that US forces--in contravention of the peace deal--have bombed non-conflict zones in Helmand, Farah and a few other provinces.
The statement warned that the consequences of such bombings will be on the United States.
The Taliban assert that according to the Doha agreement, US forces cannot conduct strikes except in a clash, but recently, "the United States forces conducted airstrikes and drone strikes on areas in Nahri Saraj, Khoshkawa, Babaji, Gereshk, Sangin, Nawa and Nad Ali districts as well as in Farah and other provinces." These strikes, the Taliban statement said, “are a clear violation of the Doha agreement.”
The US forces last week confirmed they had conducted airstrikes in Helmand to support their Afghan partners in the fight against the Taliban, who attacked different parts of the province nearly two weeks ago. The Helmand conflict has left more than 5,000 families displaced, according to the Directorate of Refugees and Repatriation in Helmand. Meanwhile, over 40 schools that enroll thousands of students have been closed due to the conflicts in the province, according to the education directorate in Helmand.
US forces in Afghanistan in a statement rejected the statement by the Taliban.
“We categorically reject the Taliban's claim the United States has violated the US-Taliban Agreement. US airstrikes in Helmand and Farah have been and continue to be solely in defense of the ANDSF as they are being attacked by the Taliban,” US forces spokesman in Afghanistan Col. Sonny Leggett said.
He added: “These strikes are consistent with both the US-Taliban Agreement and the Joint Declaration between the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the United States.”
“The entire world has witnessed the Taliban’s offensive operations in Helmand-- attacks which injured and displaced thousands of innocent Afghan civilians. We reiterate our call for all sides to reduce the violence to allow the political process to take hold,” he concluded.
The Taliban attack in Helmand has been criticized by the public as well as critics and officials.
“Show us one Talib for whom someone has shed tears. Who are they?” asked First Vice President Amrullah Saleh when he addressed an event at the Presidential Palace on Saturday.
Some members of the Meshrano Jirga, the upper house of Parliament, said they are concerned about the deteriorating security situation in the country and the unclear fate of the peace efforts.
“Violence is increasing. Recent clashes in Helmand showed that the Taliban and their leaders are not in favor of peace in Afghanistan,” said Anarkali Hunaryar, a senator.
“The Senate supports the government and the negotiating team in achieving a peace with dignity,” Senate Speaker Fazl Hadi Muslimyar said.
This comes as a Taliban attack in the western province of Ghor on Sunday left at least 12 civilians dead and many more wounded, according to the Interior Affairs Ministry.
The increase in violence comes amid the ongoing peace negotiations in Doha that have faced a deadlock over two disputed points: The religious basis for the talks and the connection of the US-Taliban agreement with the negotiations.