The US has extended its deadline for the total withdrawal of American military forces from Afghanistan—originally set for today—to September 11.
The decision to extend the US’ withdrawal comes as the intra-Afghan peace process has stalled. While the September withdrawal will be unconditional, US officials hope to facilitate a resolution to the ongoing conflict between the internationally recognized government in Kabul and the Taliban before exiting. However, such attempts have thus far failed. Last month, organizers scuttled a peace conference in Istanbul intended to expedite a settlement after Taliban leadership declined to attend. Taliban spokesmen argue that negotiations cannot resume until after the US’ withdrawal.
The Taliban maintains that US forces remaining in Afghanistan after May 1 will face attacks. Yet, the risk of inciting further US involvement in Afghanistan will likely prevent significant attacks on US forces during withdrawal. Free of the threat of immediate US reprisals, expect the Taliban to intensify its campaign against the Afghan government in the medium-term. The Taliban is likely to attempt to expand into government-held territories, such as Kandahar, which its forces currently encircle. Given the Afghan government’s unstable grasp on its own security forces, Taliban offensives against the government are likely to succeed.
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Mariah is the Director of Analysis. A regular contributor to the Daily Brief, Mariah analyzes geopolitical and economic events in the states of the former Soviet Union.