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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

Ina Fried, author of Login
10 mins ago - Technology
Column / Signal Boost

Microsoft's metaverse maneuvering

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Microsoft is pitching investors and regulators that its $68 billion Activision Blizzard deal is all about the metaverse, that nebulous buzzword taking the tech world by storm.

What they're saying: By my colleague Stephen Totilo's count, Nadella used the word "metaverse" at least five times in his conference call discussing the deal. Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick mentioned the metaverse four times, while Microsoft gaming chief Phil Spencer used the term twice.

Exclusive: Biden administration raises minimum wage for federal employees to $15

A poster demanding a federal $15-per-hour minimum wage seen near the White House in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 26, 2021. Photo: Erin Scott/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Federal agencies are being directed to raise the minimum wages for government employees to $15 an hour, according to new guidance from the Office of Personnel Management shared first with Axios.

Why it matters: The guidance will impact almost 70,000 federal employees, most of which work at the Departments of Agriculture, Defense and Veterans Affairs. OMP is directing agencies to implement the new wage by Jan. 30.

Kate Marino, author of Markets
1 hour ago - Economy & Business

The Federal Reserve is open to creating a digital dollar

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Federal Reserve finally released a much-delayed paper yesterday opining on the pros and cons of developing its own central bank digital currency (CBDC), but without coming to any firm conclusions.

Why it matters: Around the world, there are now 23 CBDCs either in pilot or formally launched. They have morphed from a theoretical concept into real-world digital cash, changing the way governments and millions of people use money — but not in the U.S.

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