A recent surge in violence in Afghanistan has caused the US to directly attack the Taliban, which has been generally avoided since the US-Taliban peace deal was signed in February. A US commander said on Friday that those actions against the Taliban will continue.
“The Taliban violence is too high and we are continuing to support the Afghan security forces and the government, and we will defend the Afghan security forces in accordance with the agreement,” said Lt. Gen. Deedrick, the US commander of the Combined Security Transition Command in Afghanistan.
The US has justified strikes against the Taliban as consistent with the peace deal since the Taliban pledged not to launch major offenses or attack urban areas. “We do conduct strikes and operations in accordance with the US-Taliban agreement, and we will continue to do so,” Deedrick said.
When asked about the possible withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan, Deedrick said it will be done responsibly. “The United States and NATO remain committed to support the government of Afghanistan. We remain committed to support the Afghan security ministries,” he said.
Under the current plan, US troop numbers were brought down to about 4,500, something Deedrick confirmed. “We are doing a responsible drawdown. We are down to about 4,500, but that still allows us to provide the type of support that we need to provide to the government and to the security forces,” he said.
The US-Taliban deal paved the way for a complete withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan by Spring 2021. But with intra-Afghan talks struggling in Doha and the spike in violence, it will be easy for hawks in Washington and government officials in Kabul to justify a continued US presence.
A Biden victory is looking likely in the US presidential election. In an interview with Stars and Stripes in September, the former vice president said that he cannot guarantee a full withdrawal from Afghanistan.