The US-Taliban peace deal signed last year paved the way for a complete withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan by May 1st. With the deadline quickly approaching, although there hasn’t been an official announcement, both the US and NATO are signaling they plan to stay, but the consequences of not leaving are becoming more apparent.
Throughout the past year, the Taliban has lived up to its commitment under the peace deal not to attack US and coalition forces. February 8th marked the first full year since the war started in 2001 that no US troops died in combat in Afghanistan. Insider attacks, known as “green-on-blue attacks,” have also reached a historic low. But the Taliban is warning that the war against the US and other foreign forces will continue if they remain in the country beyond May 1st.
While the violence against the US has subsided, fighting between the Taliban and the US-backed government has been raging in recent months. A report from The New York Times outlines the amount of territory and government checkpoints the Taliban has captured outside major cities like Kandahar and Kunduz.
According to a report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), in December, the Afghan government abandoned nearly 200 checkpoints in Kandahar. Military bases have also fallen to the Taliban, giving the Taliban more weapons, ammunition, and some heavy artillery.
The Taliban’s success means that they are poised to launch a major offensive against US, NATO, and US-backed forces if President Biden fails to withdraw. And the Pentagon is preparing for this. Two anonymous US officials told the Times that the Pentagon is requesting additional military options to “prepare for a possible multipronged attack should the United States stay beyond the May 1st deadline.”
The Pentagon is requesting an increase of troops in Afghanistan or more air support from US Central Command, which oversees US military operations in the Middle East in Afghanistan. Either way, the military recognizes that if the US stays put, it means an escalation of the almost 20-year-old war.
The Biden administration is currently reviewing the US-Taliban peace deal and is expected to make a decision on withdrawal in the coming weeks. NATO defense ministers are meeting on Wednesday and Thursday where they will address the situation in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the Taliban continues to appeal to the US to live up to its end of the deal.