WASHINGTON: On Wednesday the Pentagon played down the seriousness of a recent Taliban attack in Afghanistan that casts doubt on a four-day old peace deal between the insurgent group and the United States.
The rebels have ramped up violence against Afghan forces since the signing in Doha on Saturday, breaking a partial ceasefire and putting a shadow over peace talks between Kabul and the Taliban, due to start on March 10.
“There were a variety of attacks over the last 24 to 48 hours. And they were all beaten back,” said General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the US military.
“What is important, though, for the agreement: we´re on day four, this was small, low level attacks, out on checkpoints, etcetera,” he told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Afghan interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi on Wednesday detailed 30 Taliban attacks over the past 24 hours in 15 provinces that left four civilians and 11 Afghan soldiers dead as well as 17 insurgents dead.
Yet Milley said “the Taliban have signed up to a whole set of terms,” and he noted what, given the current bloodshed, has not changed.
“Of significance: there are no attacks on 34 provincial capitals, there are no attacks in Kabul. There´s no high profile attacks, there´s no suicide bombers, there´s no vehicle-borne suicide, no attack against the US forces, no attack against the coalition,” Milley said.
“There´s a whole laundry list of these things that aren´t happening,” he added.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper told the same hearing that the Taliban fulfilled their promise under the agreement to stop attacking U.S. forces and coalition forces, but they had not fulfilled an obligation to reduce the overall level of violence.