KABUL: Fourteen members of the Afghan security forces were killed in two separate attacks on Thursday in the first deadly assaults officials have blamed on the Taliban since the end of a three-day ceasefire.
The temporary truce ended on Tuesday but an overall lull in the country’s grinding violence has largely held despite the latest attacks, raising hopes the militants and Kabul could soon start much-delayed peace talks.
Taliban fighters attacked a checkpoint in Parwan, north of the capital, early on Thursday, said Waheeda Shahkar, spokeswoman to the provincial governor.
“The Taliban have also suffered casualties,” she said, adding that seven members of the Afghan forces died.
District police chief Hussain Shah said Taliban fighters set fire to the checkpoint, killing five security force personnel. Two more were shot dead.
In the western city of Farah, Taliban gunmen mounted an attack on a police post, killing seven policemen, provincial police spokesman Mohibullah Mohib said.
“Eight Taliban fighters were also killed in the clash that lasted for half-an-hour,” he said, adding that four policemen survived the attack.
The Taliban did not comment on the attacks immediately. But Afghan government officials said the incidents were minor and the truce could still hold.
Afghan security forces, however, carried out air strikes in the south on Wednesday that police said had killed 18 “militants”.
According to Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission, civilian casualties fell by 80 per cent during the short truce.
Kabul-based political analyst Sayed Nasir Musawi said he expected the militants to ultimately reduce attacks, without officially extending the ceasefire. “Unofficially this ceasefire will continue and we will have a meaningful reduction in violence,” he said.
He added that the earlier truce offer from the Taliban was a signal to the Afghan government and the United States that they were ready to start peace talks.
Afghan authorities have responded to the ceasefire by pushing forward with an agreed prisoner exchange, releasing some 1,000 Taliban prisoners this week, with plans to release more in the coming days.
A Taliban delegation was in Kabul on Thursday to discuss the prisoner swap with government officials, National Security Council spokesman Javid Faisal said.
The ceasefire is not over yet; there have been violations because it is a complicated technical process that requires good coordination between both sides, he added.
The ongoing exchange is part of a US-Taliban deal signed in February, which excluded the Afghan government.
Kabul had already freed about 1,000 Taliban inmates before the ceasefire, while the insurgents had released about 300 government captives.
Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2020