Conflict trends – Weekly update

AFGHANISTAN The Taliban this week launched a major assault on Lashkar Gah in Helmand province, its largest offensive on a provincial capital since the signing of the U.S.-Taliban agreement in February. The Afghan government has struggled to mount an effective counteroffensive, even with support from U.S. airstrikes, while the U.S. has renewed diplomatic efforts with the Taliban aimed at de-escalating the fighting. Crisis Group expert Andrew Watkins says the fighting – which has already forced thousands of civilians to flee – is a critical test of the Taliban’s deal with the U.S. The escalation comes only days after statements from President Trump and American officials on the possibility of a rapid, total troop withdrawal.