USA changes mind on Afghan withdrawal, Taliban launches offensive


Heavy fighting raged in seven provinces across Afghanistan as the Taliban looked to launch a new offensive in the face of the May 1 deadline, initially meant to be the US pullout date, now just another day to continue the conflict.

The Afghan Defense Ministry reported 20 soldiers and 180 Taliban killed. The largest battles were reported in Helmand, Zabul, Ghazni, and Balkh. The Taliban did not comment on this, but had been warning that fighting would pick up in May.

Which is not to say that the situation must get worse. The Taliban notably did not attack US targets, and reports are that the US and Taliban are in talks about a return to the peace process, with upcoming talks in Turkey. It is also reported that the US may be willing to negotiate a full withdrawal by early July.

When the US unilaterally reneged on the May 1 pullout, they pushed it back to September 11. Moving the date again to July would be an opportunity to repair some of the damage they’ve done, but also suggests they didn’t need to push back the date in the first place.

The Afghan government has insisted they are “ready” to stand on their own, and they would be more so if the US didn’t undermine the diplomatic efforts. Peace in Afghanistan seems to be achievable, and that could mean fewer of these high-casualty conflicts.

Tensions between the Taliban and government likely mean that fighting will continue to some extent until they reach a ceasefire deal. The ceasefire is long sought, and may be part of the US returning to a sooner pullout date.