Defense Secretary Mark Esper (L) and President Trump (R). Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Mark Esper indicated on Friday that President Trump has ordered the U.S. military to step up attacks against militants in Afghanistan following failed peace talks with the Taliban, Politico reports.

Where it stands: A Taliban delegation recently met with U.S. diplomat and special envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad for informal discussions in the Pakistani capital, the New York Times reports. Taliban members did not identify the talks as formal peace discussions, but said "that one may take place in the future."

What they're saying: “We did step up our attacks on the Taliban since the [September peace] talks broke down," Esper told reporters this week, according to Task & Purpose. “The president spoke about this publicly. We did pick up the pace considerably."

  • Esper added the plans include "air and ground" attacks, Politico notes, but declined to provide further details.
  • The U.S. military headquarters that manages operations in Afghanistan has not publicly addressed new directives from Trump.

Background: The Trump administration paused peace talks last month that aimed to conclude the 18-year-old conflict with the Taliban and cut troops in Afghanistan from 14,000 to 8,600.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Trump commutes Roger Stone's sentence

Roger Stone arriving at his sentencing hearing on Feb. 20. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Trump on Friday evening commuted the sentence of his longtime associate Roger Stone, according to two senior administration officials. Stone in February was sentenced to 40 months in prison for crimes including obstruction, witness tampering and making false statements to Congress.

Why it matters: The controversial move brings an abrupt end to the possibility of Stone spending time behind bars. He had been scheduled to report to prison on July 14.

Updated 7 hours ago - Health

Which states have set single-day coronavirus records this week

Data: COVID Tracking Project and state health department data compiled by Axios; Map: Danielle Alberti and Naema Ahmed/Axios

13 states this week surpassed records set just last week for their highest number of coronavirus infections in a single day, according to the COVID Tracking Project and state health department data. 16 states in total reported new highs.

The big picture: The United States' alarming rise in coronavirus cases isn't just due to increased testing — particularly where the number of cases has grown fastest over the last month, Axios' Andrew Witherspoon and Caitlin Owens report.

Updated 8 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 6:30 p.m. ET: 12,389,660 — Total deaths: 557,279 — Total recoveries — 6,830,596Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 6:30 p.m. ET: 3,169,611 — Total deaths: 133,885 — Total recoveries: 983,185 — Total tested: 38,856,341Map.
  3. Public health: The reality of the coronavirus bites.
  4. Trade: Trump says he's no longer considering phase-two trade deal with China because the pandemic damaged the two countries' relationship.
  5. 🎧 Podcast: Rural America has its own coronavirus problem.