The United States has carried out a "defensive strike" on Taliban forces in Afghanistan, shortly after a phone call between President Donald Trump and the insurgent group's leader.
Colonel Sonny Leggett, a spokesperson for US Forces Afghanistan, said the attack, the first American strike against the Taliban in 11 days, came in response to continued attacks on Afghan security forces.
Calling on the group to "stop needless attacks and uphold their commitments" to a peace deal signed last Saturday, the US colonel stated America would defend its allies if forced to.
Col Leggett said the Taliban had launched 43 attacks on 3 March alone, targeting the national forces.
The US Army officer continued, saying the group seems intent on "squandering" progress toward peace, which has seen the US commit to troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The US conducted an airstrike on March 4 against Taliban fighters in Nahr-e Saraj, Helmand, who were actively attacking an #ANDSF checkpoint. This was a defensive strike to disrupt the attack. This was our 1st strike against the Taliban in 11 days.— USFOR-A Spokesman Col Sonny Leggett (@USFOR_A) March 4, 2020
The Afghan Defence Ministry said in a statement that a Taliban attack on a checkpoint in northern Kunduz province had killed seven of its soldiers.
The landmark strike was said to have interrupted an active attack in Nahr-e Saraj, Helmand Province.
Hours earlier, President Trump made a surprise announcement that he had had a "very good" talk with a senior Taliban figure on the Afghan peace process.
The insurgents were the first to confirm a 35-minute phone call between Mr Trump and former Taliban fighter Mullah Baradar, despite an eruption of violence marring a brief calm in the country.
"I spoke to the leader of the Taliban today," Mr Trump told reporters.
"We had a good conversation. We’ve agreed there's no violence. We don’t want violence. We’ll see what happens."
At the time of the call, more than 20 people are believed to have died in a series of incidents across Afghanistan, after a conditional truce between Afghan troops and the Taliban fell apart.
The violence raises questions over the future of talks between the Taliban and the US-backed Afghan government in Kabul, which are set to begin on 10 March.
Days after the historic deal was signed by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the Taliban promised to resume its offensive against Afghan forces until its prisoners were released.
By 10 March - the deadline for progressed talks, 5,000 Taliban prisoners were to be swapped for 1,000 security force members.
Afghanistan’s President, Ashraf Ghani, has rejected that timeline, sparking a violent response from the insurgents.
Under Saturday's agreement, which is now under threat, the Taliban promised not to allow al-Qaeda or any other extremist group to operate in the areas they control.
Amid the latest regression in peace, there are worldwide fears that terror groups could grow in these areas.
On the day of the deal, Mr Trump appeared optimistic that such groups would be met by Taliban opposition.
"They will be killing terrorists... They will keep that fight going," he said.
According to the Taliban's Doha office spokesman, Suhail Shaheen, Mr Trump heard during the phone call that positive bilateral relations are possible if the US abides by the agreement.
In response, the US President was said to have assured the group that officials would speak to Kaboul to remove any obstacles currently standing between the inter-Aghan negotiations.
Cover image: Donald Trump speaking at the White House (Picture: PA).