US Launches New Airstrikes Against Taliban in Afghanistan’s Helmand

New attacks threaten to disrupt reported negotiations

In this first week after the US failed to withdraw from Afghanistan on May 1, as initially agreed, there was early hope of a resolution of the crisis. Reports emerged of the US and Taliban quietly negotiating to get the Taliban to a Turkish peace conference, with talk of a ceasefire, and that the US was offering to move the pullout date to early July as a compromise.

That looks less likely Wednesday, as US forces are carrying out airstrikes against Taliban targets around Helmand Province. Officially, the US is presenting this as “support of Afghan national security forces.”

This is a particularly surprising time for such a move, as it comes just a day after the US transferred the Helmand Post to the Afghan Army. The Afghan military was fighting the Taliban in several provinces, including Helmand, but the US was not involved. Conspicuously, as part of the ongoing talks the Taliban had not been attacking the US forces, seemingly trying to avoid starting up a big fight as deals near for a pullout.

The US clearly is less concerned with avoiding lengthening the war, as having taken the provocative step of reneging on the May 1 pullout date, they are now attacking Taliban targets outright, which certainly isn’t going to lend credence to the idea that they are willing to pull their small remnant force from Afghanistan in just two more months.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.