Taliban Kills 30 in 24 Hours Across Afghanistan
Violence in Afghanistan
NEW DELHI: It has been a bloody 24 hours in conflict-torn Afghanistan, as at least 30 people killed in a series of Taliban-led attacks in the country. At the time of writing, a standoff between militants and security forces in the diplomatic quarter of Kabul was ending after four hours of intense gunfire that left four of the attackers dead.
"We have surrounded the area and cornered them," Kabul police spokesman Ebadullah Karimi told AFP earlier. "The attackers wanted to get into Heetal Hotel but failed. They have now taken position among the trees behind the hotel and are firing at security forces."
A few hours earlier, militants raided several outposts in Naw Zad district in the Taliban stronghold of opium rich Helmand province. “Around 16 security forces have been killed in Taliban attacks in Naw Zad district,” provincial council chief Karim Atal told AFP.
In the same day, insurgents stormed the dormitory of a teacher training school in Kandahar. “The police were able to evacuate the residence and in the fighting one woman was killed and six police were wounded,” said provincial police spokesperson Zai Durani (as quoted in Dawn News).
Another attack in Waza Khwa district in the southeastern province of Paktika killed at least eight people and injured another ten. “A large group of Taliban attacked a police post. The police fought bravely but they were overpowered by the militants,” said deputy provincial governor Attaullah Fazly (as quoted in Dawn News). “Our initial reports show at least eight police were killed and ten wounded.”
In Wardak province, three suicide attackers stormed a court complex killing two policemen. “Three attackers tried to enter the appellate court in Maidan Shahr. One blew himself up at the first checkpost, killing two police. The others tried to enter the building but were killed by security forces,” said provincial police chief Khalil Andarabi.
The latest attacks follow a string of attacks across Afghanistan, as the Taliban steps up violence as part of its “spring offensive” -- referring to a spate in violence that is linked to better weather. It also comes as the Afghan government tries to open a peace dialogue with the militant group.
A week ago, a Taliban suicide bomber attacked a convoy from the European Union police training mission killing three people. A few days before that, a brutal attack on a foreign guesthouse in Kabul killed at least 14 people, including nine foreigners. Four Indians were among the dead.
Other recent attacks have included an attack that killed 18 police personnel in the northeastern province of Badakhshan and an attack on a bus carrying government employees that killed three in Kabul.
The insurgents have already stepped up attacks in the preceding weeks, with a suicide blast outside a bank in Jalalabad killing 33 people on April 18. Although the Taliban denied responsibility for the Jalalabad attack, the group claimed earlier killings in a wave of attacks coinciding with the drawdown of foreign troops. The insurgents slaughtered over 30 soldiers, eight of whom were beheaded, in Afghanistan’s northeastern province of Badakhshan.
The declaration of the summer offensive follows news of a peace dialogue between the Taliban and the Afghan government. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani recently said "the grounds for peace have never been better in the last 36 years,” as reports indicated that the Taliban -- for the first time in 13 years -- had, under the pressure of Pakistan, agreed to peace talks with the Afghan leadership.
The timing was important as the reports emerged before the start of the summer fighting season, sparking hope that Afghanistan could be witness to a more peaceful summer as Taliban insurgents enter a dialogue process and foreign troops depart.
However, the dialogue seemed set to fail before it even commenced. One reason for this was the White House’s announcement that the United States will maintain its current 9800 troops in Afghanistan through the end of 2015, as opposed to an earlier plan of cutting the number to 5500. The Taliban reacted sharply to the statement with Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid saying, “This damages all the prospects for peace … This means the war will go on until they are defeated.”
Although the US’ announcement no doubt contributed to the talks failing, other factors would have also made the talks a difficult proposition. For one, the rift between the top two leaders of the militant group. The two in question are political leader Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, who favors negotiation, and battlefield commander Abdul Qayum Zakir, a former Guantanamo Bay detainee, who opposes any dialogue with the Afghan leadership. Sources state that the two met recently to address their personal differences, but no headway could be made on the issue of talks, with Zakir of the view that the Afghan government was illegitimate and that real power remained with the US any way.
The announcement of the change in plans of troop withdrawal tilted the position in favour of Zakir, with the Taliban command being clear from the start that the removal of foreign troops would be one of the prerequisites for the commencement of talks.
The losers here are -- as always -- the people of Afghanistan, as civilian casualties continue to rise. The UN Mission in Afghanistan has said that the number of civilians killed or wounded in the troubled country climbed by 22 percent in 2014 to reach the highest level since 2009.
The UN agency documented 10,548 civilian casualties in 2014, the highest number of civilian deaths and injuries recorded in a single year since 2009. They include 3,699 civilian deaths, up 25 per cent from 2013 and 6,849 civilian injuries, up 21 per cent from 2013. Since 2009 -- when UNAMA began tracking casualties -- the armed conflict in Afghanistan has caused 47,745 civilian casualties with 17,774 Afghan civilians killed and 29,971 injured.
If these latest attacks are anything to go by, the situation in Afghanistan is only going to get worse.