Violence in Afghanistan is not abating despite tremendous international pressure exerted on all protagonists involved in the conflict. The fighting parties are trying to stamp their ultimate authority on the future governance of the country but this process has generated tremendous violence as employing it appears imperative by them. These groups apparently are convinced that violence is the only method to mould the final situation in their favour and there is no way to let them change their course of action. Usually the outcome of following violent course of action is to sit on the negotiating table but in the case of Afghanistan this premise has failed to extinguish violence.
According to the latest report the Afghanistan’s intelligence agency has stated that it had killed a senior regional Al Qaeda member in southwestern Afghanistan, accusing the insurgent Taliban of harbouring him. They also justify this action in the light of the deal signed by the United States, and the Taliban that mentioned that the later have agreed to cut ties with international militant groups including Al Qaeda. The Taliban, in response to a request for comment, said they were investigating the issue. United Nations monitors, however, said in a report that the Taliban continued to maintain ties with Al Qaeda. Afghan security forces last month killed a senior al Qaeda leader who was on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Most Wanted Terrorists list in Afghanistan’s central Ghazni province.
The spike in violence witnessed the killing of a well-known former television presenter who was killed in a blast in Afghanistan that officials have blamed on militants linked to the Taliban. Yama Siawash was an anchor on the private TV channel Tolo News and had recently started work at the country’s central bank. He and two others were killed when a bomb attached to his car exploded near his home in the capital Kabul. No group has officially claimed the attack but the interior ministry has reportedly blamed the Haqqani militant group, which is linked to the Taliban and is classed as a terrorist organisation by the US. Siawash had a bachelor’s degree in law and political science and he spent almost a decade working as a journalist in Afghanistan and was one of Tolo TV’s most prominent presenters. Another bank employee, Ahmadullah Anas, died in the attack along with their driver Mohammad Amin.
To the regret of the international community violent attacks in Afghanistan have surged by 50 per cent over recent months even as the Kabul government and the Taliban launched unprecedented peace talks in September. Despite brief lulls provided by two temporary ceasefires over the summer, fighting has raged across the country as the Taliban launched devastating attacks on provincial capitals and security installations, with fears the violence may jeopardise negotiations. It was mentioned that attacks against Afghan forces and civilians were 50 per cent higher in the three months to the end of September when compared to the previous quarter. It was reported that 2,561 civilian casualties occurred this quarter, including 876 deaths, up 43 per cent from the April to June period. The deteriorating situation has given rise to calls to boycott the ongoing peace talks and they are being strengthened by back-to-back attacks on education centres in Kabul claimed by ISIL, but which some government officials insist were carried out by the Taliban. Earlier this week, at least 22 students were killed in Kabul University in an attack claimed by ISIL.
In the context of violence, US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) reported that in the last three months there had been a 50% rise in violence compared with the previous three. Ross Wilson, US chargé d’affaires in Kabul, tweeted that he was “shocked” by the attack and expressed his sympathies for the families of those killed. Nearly 6,000 Afghan civilians were killed or wounded in the first nine months of the year as heavy fighting between government forces and Taliban fighters rages on despite efforts to find peace.
From January to September, there were 5,939 civilian casualties in the fighting – 2,117 people killed and 3,822 wounded. High levels of violence continue with a devastating impact on civilians, with Afghanistan remaining among the deadliest places in the world to be a civilian. Civilian casualties were 30 per cent lower than in the same period last year but the violence has failed to slow since the beginning of talks between government negotiators and the Taliban that began in Qatar’s capital, Doha, last month. The Taliban were responsible for 45 per cent of civilian casualties while government troops caused 23 per cent and United States-led international forces were responsible for two per cent. Most of the remainder occurred in crossfire, or were caused by ISIL (ISIS) or undetermined anti-government or pro-government elements. Ground fighting caused the most casualties followed by suicide and roadside bomb attacks, targeted killings by the Taliban and air raids by Afghan troops. Fighting has sharply increased in several parts of the country in recent weeks as government negotiators and the Taliban have failed to make progress in the peace talks.
Little progress has been made in meetings between Afghan government negotiators and the Taliban since the talks started on 12 September, with negotiations stalled over the basic framework of talks and an agenda still undecided. Both sides have routinely accused each other of upping hostilities and killing civilians. Meanwhile, the US envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad said that the level of violence in the country was still too high and the Kabul government and Taliban fighters must work harder towards forging a ceasefire at the Doha talks. He mentioned that he was deeply disappointed that despite commitments to lower violence, it has not happened. The window to achieve a political settlement will not stay open forever. He emphasised that there needs to be an agreement on a reduction of violence leading to a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire. What is implied here is that the progress at the intra-Afghan talks have slowed down making diplomats and officials warn that rising violence back home is sapping trust.
It is also getting clear that the US influence over Afghanistan’s battlegrounds is on the wane, with the Pentagon looking to withdraw all its troops that remain in the country by next May. Confusion over the ongoing US transition of power has raised further questions over whether Washington’s withdrawal from Afghanistan after 19 years of war will continue on schedule. It is suggested that Joe Biden may not find it convenient to withdraw from Afghanistan and the situation on ground in Afghanistan may change for the worse. The situation has been thrown into a spin as Zalmay Khalilzad may also be changed and his approach to the issue may be questioned by the Biden administration. There are so many issues that have now crept up indicating that the Afghanistan situation will remain in a flux in the foreseeable future and the country may remain as one of the deadliest places in the world with spectre of violence increasing by the day. TW