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U.S. airstrikes hit Taliban targets in Afghanistan

The United States this week conducted airstrikes against Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan, including Kandahar district, near the airfield where an MQ-9 is pictured in 2015. Photo by Sgt. Whitney Amstutz/U.S. Air Force
The United States this week conducted airstrikes against Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan, including Kandahar district, near the airfield where an MQ-9 is pictured in 2015. Photo by Sgt. Whitney Amstutz/U.S. Air Force

March 17 (UPI) -- Taliban hideouts in Afghanistan were targeted by U.S. airstrikes this week as the White House approaches a deadline for withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country.

Attacks in the Zharay, Spin Boldak and Kandahar districts of the country's southern Kandahar province came in the past 48 hours, a Twitter statement on Wednesday by U.S. Forces-Afghanistan spokesman Col. Sonny Leggett said.

The number of casualties was not disclosed, but the statement said that the airstrikes were in support of Afghan ground troops, as Taliban forces were "actively attacking and maneuvering on" Afghan army positions, Leggett said.

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The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden is considering a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, in accordance with a 2020 deal agreed to in Doha, Qatar, by the Taliban and the United States.

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The agreement calls for a full pullout of international forces by May, and the Taliban has recently refrained from attacking foreign troops -- but has increased attacks on Afghan troops.

"I'm in the process of making that decision now as to when they'll leave," Biden told ABC News on Tuesday.

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"The fact is that, that was not a very solidly negotiated deal that the president -- the former president [Donald Trump] -- worked out. And so we're in consultation with our allies as well as the government, and that decision's going to be --it's in process now," Biden said.

Biden added that a full withdrawal of U.S. troops by May 1 would be difficult, and analysts have suggested that key Afghan cities like Kandahar will fall without continued international military involvement.

"It could happen," Biden added on Tuesday, "but it is tough."

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The United States has about 2,500 troops in Afghanistan, although recent reports suggest that the number is closer to 3,500, conducting counterterrorism missions.

A separate mission, training Afghan troops, involves about 7,000 NATO and coalition forces.

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