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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 14, 2021 - World

Pakistan Airlines halts flights to Kabul citing "heavy-handedness" of Taliban

Passengers board a Pakistan International Airlines flight in Kabul on Sept 13. Photo: Aamir Qureshi/AFP via Getty Images

Pakistan International Airlines on Thursday halted flights to Kabul after what it called "heavy-handedness" of Taliban authorities, Reuters reports.

Driving the news: The suspension comes after the Taliban ordered PIA to slash ticket prices, warning that the company's Afghan operations could be blocked if it refused to do so, per Reuters.

Updated Oct 16, 2021 - World

Islamic State claims responsibility for deadly bombing in southern Afghanistan

The mosque after the explosion in southern Kandahar province on Oct. 15. Photo: Murteza Khaliqi/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for a massive blast that tore through a crowded Shiite mosque in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar on Friday, killing at least 47 people and injuring dozens more, AP reports.

Why it matters: Friday's attack was the deadliest to strike Afghanistan since the U.S. withdrew its troops from the region and is the second major attack on a Shiite mosque in a week, underscoring the Taliban's growing security threat from other militant groups.

Updated 35 mins ago - World

17 U.S. and Canadian missionaries kidnapped in Haiti

Haitian soldiers guard the public prosecutor's office in Port-au-Prince this month. Photo: Richard Pierrin/AFP via Getty Images

American officials and authorities in Haiti are working to try and free 17 hostages from a U.S.-based missionary group who were kidnapped in Port-au-Prince over the weekend, AP reported Monday.

The latest: Christian Aid Ministries said in a statement Sunday, "The group of 16 U.S citizens and one Canadian citizen includes five men, seven women, and five children." The Ohio-based organization said they were on a trip to visit an orphanage when they were kidnapped Saturday.