On July 19, 2020, the United States of America crossed a key milestone in the implementation of the US-Taliban agreement with the closing of five military outposts and the reduction of troops in Afghanistan to 8,600. While the Taliban has refrained from targeting or engaging coalition personnel, fighting between the guerrilla group and Afghan Government remains high, with Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, telling Voice of America, "the violence against the Afghans is higher than it's been in quite a while. It's one of the highest, most violent periods of the war that we've seen today."
This violence was plain to see on July 13, when the Taliban initiated a major attack on an Afghan Government Intelligence Complex in Aybak. Early in the morning, Taliban guerrillas detonated a massive truck explosive outside the compound, and then attempted to fight their way inside. The attack was only repelled when a large quick reaction force from a nearby Afghan National Army base was dispatched to provide relief. Although details remain murky, The Intelligence Ledger assesses that at least 10 Afghan Government troops and intelligence officers were killed, with several dozen more injured.
Since the United States and Taliban signed a deal in Doha, Qatar on February 29, there has been little progress made in talks between the Taliban and Afghan Government. The agreement called for all coalition forces to withdraw within 14 months as long as security and peace requirements were met by both the Taliban and Afghan Government. It further stipulated that the Afghan government would release up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners and the Taliban would release up to 1,000 Afghan security forces personnel.
Up to this point, however, the prisoner swap has been fraught with difficulties. President Ashraf Ghani has refused to release all the Taliban prisoners at once, while the Taliban has released roughly 400 Afghan servicemen. Thus far, only 1,000 members of the Taliban have been freed.
In hopes of spurring completion of a settlement, the Taliban recently reshuffled its negotiating team in Qatar. Taliban leader Mullah Hibatullah Akhunzada order the personnel change as a way to consolidate his leadership over the group's notoriously fractured military and political wings.