FEARS that Afghanistan will plunge into a torrid whirlpool of violence once all Western troops leave in September unless a peace deal is struck are growing. The latest outrage emerging from Afghanistan is the massacre of 10 mine-clearing workers late on Tuesday. According to eyewitness accounts, a group of militants entered a demining camp of the foreign NGO the HALO Trust where the workers were staying in Baghlan province and asked if there were any members of the Hazara community in the group. Though no one dared answer, the killers quickly went about their butchery; by the end of it, 10 men had been killed. The death of the workers is particularly painful; they were among those who risked their own lives to make the land safe for their compatriots — and were made to pay a heavy price. While the Afghan government has blamed the Taliban, the militia have denied involvement; the head of the NGO says the Taliban actually intervened to end the violent episode. A spokesman for the Afghan Taliban has termed the attack a “brutality” while the local chapter of the self-styled Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for this crime.

Considering the sectarian outlook of IS, there is good reason to believe their claim. Just last month, members of the so-called caliphate massacred around 80 schoolgirls belonging to the Shia Hazara community in a Kabul school. With the murder of the mine-clearing workers, the terrorist group seems to be sending a clear message of their plans should Afghanistan return to complete lawlessness. These violent episodes should jolt the Afghan government as well as the Taliban into redoubling their efforts towards reaching a peace deal. The two sides recently met in Doha, but it seems progress in the negotiations is far too slow. Time is of the essence, as without a peace deal acceptable to all Afghan factions there will be nothing to stop bloodthirsty outfits like IS from wreaking havoc in all parts of the country, and beyond its borders.

Published in Dawn, June 11th, 2021

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