The New York Fed provides safekeeping and payment services to foreign central banks so they can store international reserves securely, and to facilitate cross-border payments and other dollar-based transactions. International reserves often take the form of short-term Treasury bonds or gold. The New York Fed has been storing gold for foreign governments for nearly a century.

Though Mr. Ahmady has left the country, he said he believed that most members of the central bank’s staff were still in Afghanistan.

If the Taliban can’t gain access to the central bank’s reserves, it will probably have to further limit access to dollars, Mr. Ahmady said. This would help start a cycle in which the national currency will depreciate and inflation will rise rapidly and worsen poverty.

“They’re going to have to significantly reduce the amount that people can take out,” Mr. Ahmady said. “That’s going to hurt people’s living standards.”

The more than $400 million from the International Monetary Fund, which the Biden administration has sought to keep out of the Taliban’s hands, is Afghanistan’s share of a $650 billion allocation of currency reserves known as special drawing rights. It was approved this month as part of an effort to help developing countries cope with the coronavirus pandemic.

But the toppling of Afghanistan’s government and a lack of clarity about whether the Taliban will be recognized internationally put the I.M.F. in a difficult position.

“There is currently a lack of clarity within the international community regarding recognition of a government in Afghanistan, as a consequence of which the country cannot access S.D.R.s or other I.M.F. resources,” the organization said in a statement Wednesday. It added that its decisions were guided by the views of the international community.

Jake Sullivan, the White House’s national security adviser, said Tuesday that it was too soon to address whether the United States would recognize the Taliban as the legitimate power in Afghanistan.

“Ultimately, it’s going to be up to the Taliban to show the rest of the world who they are and how they intend to proceed,” Mr. Sullivan said. “The track record has not been good, but it’s premature to address that question at this point.”


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The U.S. War in Afghanistan: How It Started and How It Is Ending

President Biden, declaring that the United States had long ago accomplished its mission of denying terrorists a safe haven in Afghanistan, announced April 14 that all American troops would leave the country by Sept. 11.

A combat mission that has dogged four presidents — who reckoned with American casualties, a ruthless enemy and an often corrupt and confounding Afghan government partner — will at last come to an end.

Mr. Biden conceded that after nearly 20 years of war, America’s longest on foreign soil, it was clear that the U.S. military could not transform Afghanistan into a modern, stable democracy.

President George W. Bush announced that American forces had launched attacks against the terrorist group and Taliban targets in Afghanistan.

an end to major combat operations in the country.

stolen or misappropriated. The government proved unable to meet the most basic needs of its citizens. Often, its writ barely extended beyond the capital, Kabul, and other major cities.

In 2003, with 8,000 American troops in Afghanistan, the United States began shifting combat resources to the war in Iraq, launched in March of that year.

deployed thousands more troops to Afghanistan as part of a “surge,” reaching nearly 100,000 by mid-2010. But the Taliban only grew stronger, inflicting heavy casualties on Afghan security forces despite American combat power and airstrikes.

killed Osama bin Laden in a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where he had been living for years near a Pakistan military training academy. In June, Mr. Obama announced that he would start bringing American forces home and hand over responsibility for security to the Afghans by 2014.

By then, the Pentagon had concluded that the war could not be won militarily and that only a negotiated settlement could end the conflict — the third in three centuries involving a world power. Afghan fighters defeated the British army in the 19th century and the Russian military in the 20th century.

With the war at a stalemate, Mr. Obama ended major combat operations on Dec. 31, 2014, and transitioned to training and assisting Afghan security forces.

Nearly three years later, President Donald J. Trump said that although his first instinct had been to withdraw all troops, he would nonetheless continue to prosecute the war. He stressed that any troop withdrawal would be based on combat conditions, not predetermined timelines.

But the Trump administration also had been talking to the Taliban since 2018, leading to formal negotiations that excluded the Afghan government, led by President Ashraf Ghani.

an agreement with the Taliban that called for all American forces to leave Afghanistan by May 1, 2021. In return, the Taliban pledged to cut ties with terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda and the Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan, reduce violence and negotiate with the American-backed Afghan government.

release 5,500 Taliban prisoners while receiving little in return, further alienating the Afghan government.

After the deal was signed, the Taliban stopped attacking American troops and refrained from major terrorist bombings in Afghan cities. The United States reduced air support for government forces, generally restricting them to instances in which Afghan troops were in danger of being overrun.

The primary objectives of the 2020 deal were for Afghan leaders and the Taliban to negotiate a political road map for a new government and constitution, reduce violence and ultimately forge a lasting cease-fire.

But the government accused the Taliban of assassinating Afghan government officials and security force members, civil society advocates, journalists and human rights workers — including several women shot in broad daylight.

Because of their strong battlefield position and the imminent U.S. troop withdrawal, the Taliban have maintained the upper hand in talks with the Afghan government, which began in September in Doha, Qatar, but have since stalled. The Pentagon has said the militants have not honored pledges to reduce violence or cut ties with terrorist groups.

After Mr. Biden announced in April the U.S. withdrawal of American forces, NATO said its 7,000 troops in Afghanistan would coordinate their withdrawal with the United States.

The Biden administration says it continues to support peace talks, but the Taliban appear in no hurry to negotiate. Nor have they explicitly said they would agree to a power-sharing government, implying instead that they intend to seek a monopoly on power.

impose tolls and taxes on truckers and motorists, providing official receipts valid anywhere in the country. The militants also have set up checkpoints on the outskirts of major cities, raising fears that they will attempt to wrest control of cities from the government after international forces depart.

The United States has spent at least $4 billion a year on the Afghan military — $74 billion since the start of the war. The Biden administration has pledged to continue supporting Afghan forces after American troops depart.

A classified intelligence assessment presented to the Biden administration this spring said Afghanistan could fall largely under Taliban control within two to three years after the departure of international forces.

And the Taliban have given no indication they will abandon their annual spring offensive, when they typically ratchet up combat operations with the arrival of warmer weather.

“The Taliban is confident it can achieve military victory,” the threat assessment concluded.

The report added: “The Taliban is likely to make gains on the battlefield, and the Afghan government will struggle to hold the Taliban at bay if the coalition withdraws support.”


Biden’s Plan to End Afghanistan War Gives Some Detainees Hope for Release

That, however, left unanswered the question of what it would mean if Afghanistan was no longer an active zone of armed conflict, even as fighting raged elsewhere thousands of miles away.

Mr. Haroon’s case may be stronger since he is an Afghan citizen, as opposed to other detainees who the government says traveled to Afghanistan to join Osama bin Laden’s Islamist movement. There is only one other Afghan still at Guantánamo, Muhammad Rahim, 55, but he presents a more complex case.

He was initially held in C.I.A. custody as a “high-value detainee,” and his 2016 intelligence profile describes him as a courier and facilitator for Al Qaeda — including for Bin Laden — who had advance knowledge of the Sept. 11 attacks. He has never been charged with war crimes.

If the evidence is strong that Mr. Rahim worked directly for Al Qaeda, the government can argue that wartime authority continues to exist to hold him to prevent him from returning to the fight, even if the warfare involving the United States in Afghanistan is over. But his lawyer, Cathi Shusky, a federal defender in Ohio, argued that the evidence was weak.

“There’s a reasonable explanation he wasn’t part of either” Al Qaeda or the Taliban, said Ms. Shusky, who said many of the details of his case were classified, preventing her from elaborating. “There is some twisting of the narrative. I think when the facts are fully revealed, it will show his continued detention is not lawful.”

A U.S. military representative for Mr. Rahim, told an administrative review board in March 2016 that Mr. Rahim regretted his past and wanted to return to his two wives and seven children in Afghanistan. His motivations were not ideological, the representative said, rather “he only did what he did for money, so he could feed his family.”

His federal court petition for release has been on hold for years while he sought release through the board, which has repeatedly declared his detention a national security necessity. But Ms. Shusky said she and another lawyer were planning to revive his habeas corpus case in light of the decision to pull out of Afghanistan.


War, Peace and Taliban Spreadsheets

DOHA, Qatar — In the twilight months of the United States’ war in Afghanistan, Americans fought the Taliban, not over fields or villages or hearts and minds, but over spreadsheets.

Since February 2020, when the United States signed an agreement with the Taliban laying out the terms of withdrawal from Afghanistan if certain conditions were met, the insurgent group has recorded its every perceived violation of the deal, totaling well over 1,000 incidents laid out in Microsoft Excel.

Practically every week, the Taliban delivered these lists of infractions to U.S. diplomats and military officials in Doha, Qatar, who took the complaints — investigating some and dismissing others as inaccurate.

In a way, the spreadsheets’ very existence supported President Biden’s rationale for pulling out completely, even when his generals wanted to stay: A conditions-based withdrawal, as the Pentagon wanted, seemed bound to fail because neither side could agree on whether the other party was even meeting the conditions they had signed on to.

foundation to further negotiate a reduction in violence that would last 90 days. The plan is a last-ditch attempt to stave off a deadly summer insurgent offensive and stabilize the battlefield as the last American forces leave — if the Taliban are willing to come back to the table.

By announcing the withdrawal, the Biden administration has given up much of the United States’ negotiating leverage, but it still has one last carrot and stick up its sleeve that could get the Taliban onboard: U.S. envoys could agree to push for the release of 7,000 Taliban prisoners (though the Afghan government is likely to refuse to comply, especially in the wake of the announcement) and the removal of United Nations sanctions against the insurgent group.

It seems possible the end of America’s longest war on foreign soil will not end in a bang, or a whimper, but instead with representatives from an insurgent group and those of a superpower sitting across a table, debating spreadsheets.

Afghan war casualty reports, and was able to verify seven of the incidents that involved civilians, out of the more than 110 violations claimed by the Taliban for the month. (The Times does not record reports of Taliban casualties, of which many of their documented offenses claim to be. In the past, the Taliban have exaggerated or lied about casualty claims, so The Times is only printing the incident items it was able to verify, though the Taliban’s details differ from government or local accounts.)

A look into four of these seven incidents show that even when these cases are put under a microscope, the bare facts of what happened and who’s to blame are still almost impossible to discern — the byproduct of the war’s unending stream of competing narratives.

Unknown gunmen entered a home in the Altamor area of Pul-e-Alam, Logar Province’s capital, and opened fire on family members, killing a mother and three of her daughters, according to local officials at the time. The father of the family was also wounded. The Taliban, however, attributed the attack on the family to an artillery strike. Though officials at the time promised an investigation, Deedar Lawang, the provincial spokesman, recently said they still have not determined who carried out the killings.

When told that The Times had reported the incident as being carried out by gunmen and not an artillery strike, a Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid said, “All the recorded incidents are considered a violation by Taliban standards and reporting.”

By all accounts from officials in Kapisa Province’s district of Tagab, a mountainous province just north of Kabul, the country’s capital, the deaths of 11 Afghan security forces and three civilians were the result of a Taliban offensive into several villages on the night of June 14.

The Taliban’s account is that nine civilians were also wounded, during “artillery fire on a wedding.” But local officials said that three civilians were killed and eight others were wounded when a Taliban mortar round hit a house.

On June 18, a mortar round exploded in the yard of a madrasa, or religious school, in Takhar Province’s Ishkamish District, killing nine students and wounding six others, according to local officials. It was unclear if the children were playing with the shell, but last week, Khalil Asir, a police spokesman, said the mortar round had been concealed in a sack.

The Taliban often use mosques as central to their fighters operations: not just as a meeting place, but also where weapons and munitions are sometimes stored. But their incident report said that “the enemy planted a mine next to the mosque,” implying that Afghan security forces, backed by the United States, deliberately planted the round near the madrasa.

Several rounds of artillery landed in a livestock market in Sangin District, a volatile area in Helmand Province, killing 23 civilians and wounding 40 others on June 29, according to local officials. Residents of the area, which was under Taliban control, blamed government forces, while government officials blamed the insurgent group. Later on, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission and the United Nations determined that government forces had fired the mortar rounds in response to a Taliban attack on their base.

Though the Afghan government’s investigation still has not been made public, last week, Fawad Aman, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense, said the government’s investigation attributed the attack to the Taliban.

Fahim Abed and Najim Rahim contributed reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan


How the G.O.P. Lost Its Clear Voice on Foreign Policy

For decades, Senator Lindsey Graham traveled the world with his friend John McCain, visiting war zones and meeting with foreign allies and adversaries, before returning home to promote the Republican gospel of an internationalist, hawkish foreign policy.

But this week, after President Biden announced that troops would leave Afghanistan no later than Sept. 11, Mr. Graham took the podium in the Senate press gallery and hinted that spreading the party’s message had become a bit lonely.

“I miss John McCain a lot but probably no more than today,” Mr. Graham said. “If John were with us, I’d be speaking second.”

Mr. McCain, the onetime prisoner of war in Vietnam, in many ways embodied a distinctive Republican worldview: a commitment to internationalism — and confrontation when necessary — that stemmed from the Cold War and endured through the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush before evolving after the Sept. 11 attacks to account for the threat of global terrorism.

has warned that a full withdrawal from Afghanistan could pose a significant national security threat.

For Republicans, the shift inward comes as their long dominance over issues of national security and international affairs is waning. Mr. Trump rejected Republican foreign policy orthodoxy but largely struggled to articulate a cohesive countervailing view beyond a vague notion of putting America first. He embraced strongmen, cast longtime allies as free riders and favored a transactional approach, rejecting any notion of the kind of values-driven foreign policy that had defined the party for decades.

The party’s foreign policy establishment found itself exiled from Mr. Trump’s government and fighting for relevance against an insurgent isolationist party base.

“To say that there is a single Republican foreign policy position is to miss what’s been happening within the conservative movement on these issue for the last 20 years,” said Lanhee Chen, a Hoover Institution scholar and policy adviser to a number of prominent Republican officials. “The characters change, the terminology changes, but the differences remain.”

Yet, that old debate carries new political resonance for the party, as it confronts the political need to develop a platform that goes beyond simply opposing whatever the Democratic administration puts in place.

“Anytime you don’t have the White House and you don’t have control of the Congress, it is a time to look inward and figure out what the predominate view is,” Mr. Chen said.

A survey conducted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs last year found that Republican voters preferred a more nationalist approach, valuing economic self-sufficiency, and taking a unilateral approach to diplomacy and global engagement

When asked about the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, 58 percent of Republicans surveyed said the outbreak showed the United States should be less reliant on other countries, compared with just 18 percent of Democrats who said the same. Close to half of Republicans agreed that “the United States is rich and powerful enough to go it alone, without getting involved in the problems of the rest of the world,” and two-thirds said they preferred that the country produce its own goods, as opposed to buying or selling overseas.

is emerging as the most outspoken critic of Mr. Biden among former top Trump officials.

Of course, as the Fox News hosts pointed out, had Mr. Trump won re-election, the troops would have been coming home next month — with the full support of Mr. Pompeo, if not many other Republican leaders.


Biden’s Afghan Pullout Is a Victory for Pakistan. But at What Cost?

Near the peak of the American war in Afghanistan, a former chief of neighboring Pakistan’s military intelligence — an institution allied both to the U.S. military and to its Taliban adversaries — came on a talk show called “Joke Night” in 2014. He put a bold prediction on the record.

“When history is written,” declared Gen. Hamid Gul, who led the feared spy service known as the I.S.I. during the last stretch of the Cold War in the 1980s, “it will be stated that the I.S.I. defeated the Soviet Union in Afghanistan with the help of America.”

“Then there will be another sentence,” General Gul added after a brief pause, delivering his punchline to loud applause. “The I.S.I., with the help of America, defeated America.”

In President Biden’s decision to withdraw all American forces from Afghanistan by September, Pakistan’s powerful military establishment finally gets its wish after decades of bloody intrigue: the exit of a disruptive superpower from a backyard where it had established strong influence through a friendly Taliban regime before the U.S. invaded in 2001.

social unrest, agitation by oppressed minorities and a percolating Islamic militancy of its own that it is struggling to contain.

If Afghanistan descends into chaos, Pakistanis are bound to feel the burden again just as they did after Afghanistan disintegrated in the 1990s following the Soviet withdrawal. Millions of Afghan refugees crossed the porous border to seek relative safety in Pakistan’s cities and towns.

thousands of religious seminaries spread across Pakistan. Those groups have shown no hesitation in antagonizing the country’s government.

bitter about the double role played by the I.S.I. The killing of Bin Laden in Pakistan by U.S. forces in 2011 was one rare moment when those tensions played out in public.

But Pakistan’s generals were also successful in making themselves indispensable to the United States — offering a nuclear-armed ally in a region where China, Russia and Islamist militants all had interests. Effectively, it meant that the United States chose to turn a blind eye as its Pakistani allies helped the Taliban wear down American and allied forces in Afghanistan.

Pakistan was 50 times more important to the United States than Afghanistan was.

In recent years, as American officials sought a way to leave Afghanistan, they again had to turn to Pakistan — to pressure the Taliban to come to peace talks, and to lend help when the United States needed to move against Al Qaeda or the Islamic State affiliate in the region.

With the U.S. intention to leave publicly declared, Pakistan did away with any semblance of denial that the Taliban leadership was sheltering there. Taliban leaders flew from Pakistani cities to engage in peace talks in Qatar. When negotiations reached delicate moments that required consultations with field commanders, they flew back to Pakistan.

When the United States finally signed a withdrawal agreement with the Taliban in February last year, the mood in some circles in Pakistan was one of open celebration.

Pakistan’s former defense minister, Khawaja Muhammad Asif, who had repeatedly visited the halls of power in Washington as a U.S. ally, tweeted a photo of U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meeting Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban deputy at the talks in Qatar.

“You might have might on your side, but God is with us,” Mr. Asif said in the tweet, ending with a cry of victory. “Allah u Akbar!”

But there are signs that extremist groups within Pakistan have already felt emboldened by the Taliban’s perceived victory, giving a glimpse of the trouble likely to be in store for Pakistani officials.

The once-defeated Pakistani Taliban have increased their activities in tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. Ambushes against security forces have become more frequent.

Just how wide the problem of extremism might stretch has been on display in recent days on the streets of two of Pakistan’s main cities, Lahore and Karachi.

Supporters of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, a movement that sees itself as protecting Islam against blasphemy, thrashed uniformed members of Pakistani forces and took dozens hostage for hours. Videos emerged of Pakistani army officers trying to reason with the violent protesters. Officials said two policemen had been killed, and 300 wounded. The showdown continues, as the government moved to ban the group as a terrorist outfit.

“The state was not able to control the stick-yielding and stone-hurling members of the T.L.P. that paralyzed most parts of the country for two days,” said Afrasiab Khattak, a former chairman of Pakistan’s human rights commission. “How will they handle trained, guns-carrying Taliban militants?”

Mark Mazzetti and Eric Schmitt contributed reporting.


U.S. and Allies Plan Fight From Afar Against Al Qaeda Once Troops Exit Afghanistan

Daunting challenges face the American-backed Afghan security forces. Over the past year, they have lost territory from repeated assaults by the Taliban and have relied on U.S. air power to push back the insurgents.

With the Afghan government’s credibility waning, militias — once the main power holders during the days of the Afghan civil war in the 1990s — have rearmed and reappeared, even challenging Afghan security forces in some areas.

“If the president authorizes it, we will still be able to provide some level of military support to the Afghan national security forces after we depart the country,” William H. McRaven, the retired Navy admiral who directed the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, said in an interview on Wednesday.

For the Pentagon and the intelligence agencies, a key issue now is how readily counterterrorism operations can be carried out from beyond Afghanistan. The history of such operations has a decidedly mixed record. Cruise missile strikes launched from distant ships against terrorist targets in Afghanistan have had a low rate of success.

The United States maintains a string of air bases in the Persian Gulf region, as well as in Jordan, and the Pentagon operates a major regional air headquarters in Qatar. But the farther that Special Operations forces have to travel to strike a target, the more likely the operations are to fail, either by missing their mark or resulting in a catastrophic failure that could kill American service members or civilians on the ground, according to officials who have studied the record.

Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III, meeting with allies of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Brussels on Wednesday, cited the military’s ability to strike terrorist targets in far-flung hot spots “in Africa and other places” where few, if any, troops are stationed, apparently referring to drone strikes and commando raids in Somalia, Yemen and Libya in recent years.

“There’s probably not a space on the globe that the United States and its allies can’t reach,” Mr. Austin told reporters.


In One Afghan District, Peace From 8 A.M. to 5 P.M.

PANJWAI, Afghanistan — For a brief moment in a small patch of southern Afghanistan, the war has stopped.

After weeks of negotiations, the mayor of Panjwai, a sizable district in the strategically important Kandahar Province, said a 10-day cease-fire would begin Sunday morning.

There was no formal announcement or major decree, nor was there any involvement from the international community. Instead, the cease-fire in Panjwai was the culmination of a grass-roots movement led by farmers and townspeople exhausted after more than 40 years of war and the recent escalation of fighting in their district.

Their success in brokering the cease-fire offered a clear example of how local communities, driven by despair, have engineered their own ways to stop the fighting — even if it is just for a few hours — as Afghan and Taliban negotiators continue to struggle to find a way forward during peace talks in Qatar.

By Sunday morning, signs of the cease-fire were clearly visible in Panjwai. Barbed wire that usually blocked the road from nearby Kandahar city had been moved aside. Cars no longer had to cross hundreds of yards of sand and gravel before rejoining the pavement. Almost every stall in the district’s bazaar was open.

Nasir Ahmad, 25, said he heard insurgents talking on their radios as he crossed into Taliban-controlled territory for his construction job Sunday morning. The fighting would stop for now, he recalled hearing.

“There is hope,” Mr. Ahmad said.

The cease-fire was arranged by local negotiators, the local police chief and Taliban leaders. But some soldiers and police officers said they had not been informed of its existence, part of a pattern of denial from Afghan forces who have grown dismayed by faltering peace talks.

A local Taliban commander in Panjwai confirmed to The New York Times that the insurgent group had agreed to participate in the cease-fire and to abide by the hours laid out by Haji Mahmood Noor, the mayor of Panjwai. No fighting was to take place between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., primarily so farmers could return to their fields.

The Taliban’s current leader, Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada, was born in Panjwai, a district of upward of 80,000 people. Its valley is where the Taliban essentially took root. The cease-fire will undoubtedly help the group continue to hold the territory, which it seized in November, and to win over the population after its fall offensive destroyed the season’s harvest in parts of the province.

Small, unofficial cease-fires in Afghanistan are nothing new. Individual Afghan police outposts frequently cut agreements with the Taliban, and in the past some NATO forces have been known to do so as well. But they are rarely on the scale of the one in Panjwai.

Rumors of a cease-fire in Panjwai had been circulating for weeks as the weather warmed and pitched battles between Taliban and Afghan forces dragged on, local officials and residents said.

Elders and local officials from the Arghandab, Zhari and Panjwai districts desperately tracked down Taliban and government officials, pleading for a cease-fire after Taliban offensives cut off thousands of families from their homes and crops.

At first, the Taliban were reluctant to agree with those from Panjwai, local officials said, while the elders were mostly ignored and sidelined by government officials in both Kandahar and Kabul.

“It was not working in the bigger circle, so we tried the smaller circle,” Mr. Noor said. He agreed to act as a go-between for a 12-man negotiating team consisting of local farmers and tribal elders, Panjwai’s police chief and other officials in Kandahar.

In recent weeks in the neighboring district of Zhari, the local government and the Taliban had already agreed to stop fighting so farmers could return to their fields and vineyards in a shaky truce that held for several days, local officials said. The cease-fire in Zhari helped lay the groundwork for the one secured by Mr. Noor and the negotiators in Panjwai.

That the cease-fire in Zhari and Panjwai had to be arranged on a local level spoke to a growing desire for peace in the absence of government oversight.

There are now fewer than 10,000 foreign troops deployed across Afghanistan. This means that Afghan forces, with fewer efforts to advise them, are frequently separated into distinct tribes — Army, police and Special Operations — that often fail to communicate with one another. Under these circumstances, local cease-fires can be used more effectively, and broken just as quickly.

With the war increasingly being guided at the local level, people like Mr. Noor and other district officials have gotten more involved after being pushed by local residents desperate to save orchards and vineyards hit by the recent offensives and in danger of being lost for decades if they are not cultivated.

“In these 10 days of cease-fire, I will water my farms. I will cut the extra branches of grapes, as we haven’t watered them for the last four months because of the fighting,” said Mohammad Hashim, 58, a tribal elder from Panjwai and one of the 12 negotiators who helped implement the cease-fire.

Mr. Hashim sighed and looked at his watch.

“This 10-day cease-fire is like 10 years to me,” he said. “We don’t have a minute to lose.”

The clock began ticking at 8 a.m. The first violation occurred three hours and 27 minutes later.

A small group of Afghan Army commandos positioned on a hill offering commanding views of Taliban-held territory were drinking tea before they cleaned and haphazardly fired a lone 82-millimeter mortar.

One of the soldiers said the group had been targeting a sniper, though they admitted that the last three hours had been mostly quiet. The mortar shell was in the air for what felt like a minute before it hit the ground with a distant crump. The commandos then returned to their tea. Nobody else fired a shot.

Random, unpredictable shelling from Afghan government forces was one of the main drivers of the cease-fire in Panjwai. The errant attacks have frequently hit civilians or farmers in their fields who are mistaken for Taliban fighters. This has turned places like Panjwai into a lottery of death, where people trying to get back to their homes are caught between whistling shells from above and homemade mines and roadside bombs planted by the Taliban from below.

The commandos on the hilltop said they had not heard of the cease-fire and had not agreed to one. Panjwai’s police chief, Second Lt. Juma Gul Ishaqzai, also denied the cease-fire, even though local officials, including the mayor, said he had agreed to it and helped marshal the district’s intelligence head and local army commander into the deal.

“This is a Taliban plan,” Lieutenant Ishaqzai said in an interview.

The wreckage of mangled Humvees and American-supplied pickup trucks littering the parking lot of Mr. Ishaqzai’s headquarters offered one possible explanation for his denial: How could there be a cease-fire when his men were still dying in a never-ending war?

But it was not one of Mr. Ishaqzai’s officers who died Sunday afternoon after the 82-millimeter mortar landed some 3,000 yards to the south of the hilltop outpost in Panjwai.

Mr. Noor, the mayor, said he had received a call later that afternoon from an informant living in the Taliban-held area that had been hit. He said the informant had told him that the mortar killed a man and wounded his brother, both members of a family with links to the Taliban, but he could not tell if they were insurgents themselves.

He said the informant had also told him the Taliban commanders had passed on a message to their fighters after the mortar hit: “Don’t fire back.”

Jim Huylebroek contributed reporting from Panjwai.


They Were Journalists, and Women, and Targeted for Both

Though she noted that she was unaware of the station receiving any threats specific to the murdered women or female employees generally, “Being a journalist in Afghanistan is a risk. There’s no other way to put it,” she said. “Even just going to work or walking home from work, as we saw happen yesterday, can pose a risk.”

Since 2018, more than 30 media employees and journalists have been killed in Afghanistan, according to a recent United Nations report. It has been particularly bad for them, and for other civil society figures, during an increase in targeted killings documented by The New York Times since peace negotiations started in September 2020.

“I feel like we’re living in a horror movie these days,” said Rada Akbar, a Kabul-based photojournalist and artist. “So many people left the country. A lot of people got killed. And everyone else who is in the city is just …” she trailed off, then continued. “Everyone is so silent. It’s very scary.”

Mariam Alimi, a Kabul-based photojournalist, remembers the precise moment she heard that the three media workers in Jalalabad had been killed. “I was at my brother’s house,” she said. “I heard that three journalists had been killed, so I switched on the TV, and saw the story.”

The news, she said, was “a warning to me.” She travels throughout the country for her work, often alone. For years, she said, she felt safe enough doing so that she preferred to drive to assignments across the country rather than fly, which she considered a hassle. More recently, however, she has been threatened and followed by unknown men while on assignment. Her clients have canceled assignments and warned her not to travel.

And then came the killings on Tuesday, which felt like a message she couldn’t ignore.

The New York Times documented the deaths of at least 136 civilians and 168 security force members in such targeted killings and assassinations in 2020, more than nearly any other year of the war.


For Biden, Deliberation and Caution, Maybe Overcaution, on the World Stage

But the early indications suggest that Mr. Biden is moving slower on the world stage than he is at home. And that is partly rooted in his belief, his national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said in an interview, that the United States will regain its global influence only after it has tamed the pandemic, restored economic growth and reset its relationships with allies.

The most telling of his decisions centers on Saudi Arabia. After banning the arms sales to halt what he called a “catastrophic” war in Yemen, Mr. Biden released an intelligence report about Prince Mohammed’s role in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, the dissident journalist, and imposed new penalties on the crown prince’s personal royal guard, the so-called Rapid Intervention Force. But Mr. Biden stopped at the next step — barring travel by or threatening criminal prosecution of the 35-year-old crown prince.

The president had not told his staff in advance whether he favored direct action, even though he said in the campaign that the Saudi leadership had “no redeeming social value.”

Mr. Sullivan said he and his staff went to Mr. Biden with “a broad-based recommendation that a recalibration of the relationship, rather than a rupture of the relationship, was the right course of action.”

Mr. Biden, Mr. Sullivan said, “pressed us on our assumptions as he worked through the pros and cons of every aspect of the policy,” including the staff’s conclusion that keeping a channel open to the crown prince was the best path to “resolving the war in Yemen.”

But the final decision was a reminder, other aides said, that Mr. Biden emerged from his three decades in the Senate with both a belief in nurturing even the most difficult of alliances — and a dose of realism that the United States could not prevent the crown prince from becoming the next king.

“We deal, unfortunately, every single day with leaders of countries who are responsible for actions we find either objectionable or abhorrent, whether it’s Vladimir Putin, whether it’s Xi Jinping,” Antony J. Blinken, the secretary of state and Mr. Biden’s longest-serving foreign policy adviser, said on Wednesday on “PBS NewsHour.”