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U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie in 2019. Photo: Fayez Nureldine/AFP via Getty Images

A regional U.S. commander said at a Sunday news conference that the U.S. military has stepped up its airstrikes against the Taliban and that it will continue to do so in the weeks ahead, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: The United States has almost completed its military withdrawal from Afghanistan, which is slated to wrap up on Aug. 31. However the departure has coincided with large and rapid territorial gains by the Taliban and a sharp increase in violence.

The big picture: "The United States has increased airstrikes in support of Afghan forces over the last several days and we're prepared to continue this heightened level of support in the coming weeks if the Taliban continue their attacks," said U.S. Marine Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, per Reuters.

  • However, McKenzie, the head of U.S. Central Command, did not say whether U.S. airstrikes would continue after Aug. 31, reports Reuters.

State of play: The marked uptick in violence since the United States began its withdrawal has seen thousands of Afghans fleeing to neighboring countries.

  • The U.S. intelligence community has warned that the Afghan government could collapse as soon as next year as the Taliban's battlefield offensive grows.
  • Afghan government and Taliban leaders met for peace talks last week in Doha, but no peace deal appears imminent.

Go deeper

Oct 19, 2021 - World

WHO, UNICEF to launch polio vaccine drive in Afghanistan

Afghan boys return to their homes after attending school in Chashma Dozak area of Badghis province on Oct. 16. Photo: Hoshang Hashimi/AFP via Getty Images

The World Health Organization and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) will launch a house-to-house vaccination campaign to inoculate children in Afghanistan against polio, the UN announced Monday.

Why it matters: The campaign, which begins Nov. 8 with the Taliban's backing, is the first such vaccine drive in over three years to reach all Afghan children, the press release noted.

Updated 60 mins ago - Health

COVID cases and deaths keep falling

Expand chart
Data: N.Y. Times; Cartogram: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

America’s coronavirus outbreak is rapidly improving as the Delta wave recedes, and vaccines for kids — which could become available within weeks — will help the situation improve even further.

By the numbers: Nationwide, the U.S. is now averaging about 79,000 new cases per day — a 22% drop over the past two weeks.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
Updated 1 hour ago - Economy & Business

How the pandemic caused a corporate rebound

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

WeWork becomes a public company today worth more than $9 billion — a vindication of the expensive turnaround strategy employed after it spectacularly imploded in 2019. Like many companies that find themselves at death's door, that which didn't kill them made them stronger.

Why it matters: Hertz, Alamo Drafthouse, Airbnb, and Toast are among the currently-thriving companies that were shaken to the core in the early days of the pandemic — providing further evidence for the theory that, in the words of former Fast Company editor Bill Taylor, "companies can't be great unless they've almost failed."