Afghanistan: Taliban fires missiles at coalition military base

First attack aimed at international forces since US withdrawal agreement

(FILES) In this file photo members of the 1st Platoon Comanche Company of the US Army stand at a checkpoint in the Combat Outpost Lakon in Buwri Tana District, Khost Province on August 9, 2012.    US President Joe Biden warned that a deadline to withdraw all American soldiers from Afghanistan by May 1, 2021 as part of a deal with the Taliban was possible but "tough." "Could happen, but it is tough," Biden said when asked in a TV interview broadcast Wednesdayon March 17, 2021. / AFP / Jose CABEZAS

The Taliban fired two missiles on a coalition military base in Afghanistan's Khost province on Tuesday in the first attack on foreign forces there since a US withdrawal agreement was reached last year.

The missile attack, claimed by Taliban social media accounts, was confirmed by the US military and Afghan security officials.

“Taliban fired indiscriminate rocket missiles on the military headquarters of coalition forces in Khost city in violation of Doha agreement,” read a statement by the Khost Protection Force (KPF), a US-backed militia.

The missiles landed on civilian homes in the village of Landi, on the outskirts of Khost city, the statement continued. No casualties were reported.

The insurgent group blamed the US-backed KPF for provoking the incident, the first since the signing of the Doha peace agreement with the administration of former US president Donald Trump.

“The Americans were repeatedly asked that the KPF, which belongs to the Americans in Khost, shouldn’t have conducted any operations as per the Doha agreement. But they repeatedly violated [the agreement] and today these invaders were targeted,” an account associated with the Taliban’s leader in Doha, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, claimed.

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid added that the attack was in response to an operation by pro-government forces in Sabari district. The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission is currently investigating claims the attack killed nearly 20 civilians, including women and children.

The missile strike comes at a time when the US is reviewing the peace deal made by Mr Trump, which requires US troops to withdraw from Afghanistan by May 1 in exchange for a reduction in violence. President Biden and his officials have indicated on several occasions that they intend to extend the presence of US forces, even if only for a little while longer.

In light of this, the attack could be seen as a power move on part of the Taliban, analysts speculate.

"It’s bold of them. However, the Taliban have long said that if Nato troops do not leave by May 1, they will resume attacks on them,” said Sabir Ibrahimi, a non-resident fellow at the Centre on International Co-operation.

"The rocket attack may not have any major consequences on the peace talks unless it has caused casualties to US troops,” he added.

Afghan officials have maintained there are no foreign forces in Khost and a US official from Resolute Support who confirmed the incident did not clarify if US forces were present.

This isn’t the first time the KPF has been accused of committing atrocities by human rights organisations.

“Khost has been the scene of fighting between the Taliban and the pro-government forces in which several civilians have also died. The Taliban are saying this is an act of revenge to that,” Mr Ibrahimi said.

For its part, the KPF accuses the Taliban of violating their deal with the US.

“The Taliban have clearly violated the Doha Agreement, proving that they are not committed to peace and want to continue killing Afghans and destroying Afghanistan,” it said.

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