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Fighters with Afghanistan's Taliban militia. Photo: Photo: Faridullah Ahmadzai / AFP / Getty Images

On Friday, four civilians in Afghanistan's northeast Badakhshan province were killed, and eight injured, after a gun battle between the Taliban and security forces, per the Washington Post. That came after a suicide bomber in neighboring Kunar province killed two people and injured another.

The bigger picture: The first three months of 2018 have seen repeated attacks on civilians and increased aggression from the Taliban. Michael Kugelman of the Wilson Center says the message the Taliban is sending is simple: "Despite U.S. efforts to step up battlefield pressure on the Taliban, the group remains strong and quite capable of carrying out sophisticated, devastating attacks."

"There’s a clear reason why the Taliban is ramping up its attacks on civilians in urban spaces, including in supposedly highly secured areas: By staging these attacks with impunity, the Taliban wants to convey the impression that the government can’t protect its people. Sadly, that’s an impression that a critical mass of Afghans certainly have of their government these days."
— Michael Kugelman

Some of the major attacks in recent weeks:

  • January 20: Insurgents storm Kabul's luxury Intercontinental Hotel, and kill at least 22, including 14 foreigners.
  • January 27: A suicide bomber strikes in Kabul, killing at least 95 people and injuring more than 100 more.
  • February 24: Two suicide strikes in Helmand Province kill two Afghan soldiers and wound "a dozen civilians, including women and children," per the New York Times.
  • March 9: The Taliban attacks an army outpost in the northern Takhar Province. Ten local law enforcement officers are killed, and nine more wounded.
  • March 17: A suicide car bomb in Kabul kills at least three. The Taliban was targeting a foreign security company, per Radio Free Europe, but those that were killed were "passerby and local workers."
  • March 30: Following Friday's firefight, the Taliban claims more civilians were killed than the four reported by Afghan officials, and says the government bears responsibility for their deaths.

Worth noting: The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan reports that more than 10,000 civilians were killed or wounded in 2017, and attributes 42% of those casualties to the Taliban.

Go deeper

Swing voters oppose Texas abortion law

Protesters at a rally at the Texas State Capitol. Photo: Jordan Vonderhaar/Getty Images

All 10 swing voters in Axios’ latest focus groups — including those who described themselves as "pro-life" — said they oppose Texas' new anti-abortion law.

Why it matters: If their responses reflect larger patterns in U.S. society, this could hurt Republicans with women and independents in next year's midterm elections. The swing voters cited overreach, invasion of privacy and concerns about frivolous lawsuits jamming up the courts.

24 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Biden bombs with Manchin

Then-Vice President Joe Biden conducts a ceremonial swearing-in for Sen. Joe Manchin in 2010. Photo: Tom Williams/Roll Call

President Biden failed to persuade Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to agree to spending $3.5 trillion on the Democrats' budget reconciliation package during their Oval Office meeting on Wednesday, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

Why it matters: Defying a president from his own party — face-to-face — is the strongest indication yet Manchin is serious about cutting specific programs and limiting the price tag of any potential bill to $1.5 trillion. His insistence could blow up the deal for progressives and others.

Biden blindsides Europe with new AUKUS alliance on China

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images

President Biden is constructing and deepening new alliances to strengthen the U.S. position in its showdown with China, but he risks alienating longstanding allies in the process.

Why it matters: Biden heralded a new agreement to help Australia acquire nuclear submarines as part of a trilateral security pact with the U.K. and the U.S. as an "historic step" to update U.S. alliances to face new challenges. The message from French foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, was quite different.

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