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U.S. launches airstrike in response to failed Taliban rocket attack on day formal withdrawal begins

As U.S. and NATO forces began their formal withdrawal from Afghanistan on Saturday, violence broke out in multiple parts of the country, including near a base that’s home to remaining U.S. soldiers. The incidents appear to signal the challenges that likely lay ahead during the transition period.

On Friday, the evening before the launch of the final withdrawal phase, which is set to end by or before Sept. 11, 2021, a truck bomb exploded outside of a guesthouse in Pul-e-Alam in Logar Province, killing at least 27 people. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but the Afghan government blames the Taliban. If that was indeed the case, The New York Times writes, then “it would be the most overt signal yet that the deal the Americans reached with the group” last year “is off.” The Taliban has never ceased with attacks and assassinations, but Friday night’s bombing “appeared to represent a shift in tactics,” the Times notes.

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The Taliban has accused the U.S. of violating the agreement — which originally marked May 1 as the final deadline — with Biden’s extension, though multiple spokesmen for the group said Saturday that leaders are still deciding how to respond.

Elsewhere on Friday, Taliban insurgents overran an Afghan army base and captured 25 soldiers, while U.S. military spokesman Col. Sonny Leggett tweeted that Kandahar Airfield, one of the bases where a small contingent of U.S. and NATO soldiers remain, “received ineffective firing” on Saturday. There were no injuries or damages. The U.S. military then responded to the rocket attack with an airstrike on a Taliban position, CNN reports.

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