The Afghan army has abandoned nearly 200 checkpoints in Kandahar since December. The collapse of some military bases this past fall afforded the Taliban to move in and take troves of military equipment and ammunition, including several heavy artillery pieces.

“When the trees turn green, the situation will get worse,” said Haji Mahmood Noor, the district mayor for Panjwai, referring to the spring when the Taliban can move more at ease under cover of blooming foliage.

The Taliban’s offensive pressure has put the Biden administration into a political bind. Under President Donald J. Trump’s deal with the Taliban in 2020, all foreign troops, including the remaining 2,500 American service embers who support Afghanistan military and security forces, are scheduled to withdraw by May 1, 2021, leaving the country in an especially precarious state.

If the Biden administration honors the withdrawal date, the Taliban could overwhelm what’s left of the Afghan security forces and take control of major cities like Kandahar. They then could push for a complete military victory or a broad surrender by the Afghan government through ongoing negotiations.