Taliban attacks in Kabul increasing: report

Published February 2, 2021
In this file photo, security forces take part in an ongoing operation against Taliban militants in Sarkari Bagh in Arghandad district of Kandahar province on November 2. — AFP
In this file photo, security forces take part in an ongoing operation against Taliban militants in Sarkari Bagh in Arghandad district of Kandahar province on November 2. — AFP

KABUL: Taliban attacks in the Afghan capital of Kabul are on the rise, with growing targeted killings of government officials, civil society leaders and journalists, a report by a US watchdog said on Monday.

It comes as the Biden administration plans to take a new look at the peace agreement between the US and the Taliban signed last February under President Donald Trump.

The report said Taliban-initiated attacks across Afghanistan during the last quarter of 2020 were slightly lower than in the previous quarter, but exceeded those of the same period in 2019, according to numbers provided by US forces in Afghanistan.

Enemy attacks in Kabul were higher than during the previous quarter,” the report quoted US forces. They were much higher than in the same quarter last year. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, known as SIGAR, monitors the billions of dollars the US spends in war-ravaged Afghanistan.

The Taliban unleashed a wave of attacks in Afghanistan in December, including strikes in northern Baghlan and southern Uruzgan provinces over a two-day period that killed at least 19 members of the Afghan security forces. In Kabul, a roadside bomb struck a vehicle, wounding two, and a lawyer was shot in a targeted killing.

Nato-led mission reports 2,586 civilian casualties from Oct 1 to Dec 31 last year

Resolute Support, the Nato-led mission in Afghanistan, reported 2,586 civilian casualties from Oct 1 to Dec 31 last year, including 810 killed and 1,776 wounded, according to the SIGAR report. The proportion of casualties caused by improvised explosive devices increased by nearly 17 per cent in this quarter, correlating with an increase in magnetically attached IEDs or sticky bomb attacks, the report said.

Despite the ongoing violence, casualties across Afghanistan in the last quarter of 2020 decreased by 14pc, compared to the previous quarter. The quarter saw an exceptionally high number of casualties for the winter months, however, when fighting normally subsides.

The US has been the prime backer of the Afghan government since it invaded the country soon after the Sept 11, 2001, attacks and overthrew the Taliban, who were running the country and harbouring Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. The US is still spending about $4 billion a year to assist Afghan security forces.

The US military said earlier this month that it had met its goal of reducing the number of troops in Afghanistan to about 2,500. Senior US commanders are skeptical of the Taliban’s stated commitment to peace, though they have said they can accomplish their mission in Afghanistan at that troop level.

As the footprint of US agencies continues to shrink, it will become more important that the US and other donors perform aggressive and effective oversight of its dollars and programs,” said Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction John F. Sopko.

Published in Dawn, February 2nd, 2021

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