Conflict Alerts

Conflict Alerts # 199, 4 December 2020

Afghanistan: Violence continues despite the Doha talks; suicide bombings leave 34 people dead
Abigail Miriam Fernandez

In the news
On 29 November, at least 34 people were killed in two separate suicide bombings that targeted a military base and a provincial chief. According to an official in Afghanistan's National Security Council, 31 soldiers were killed and 24 others wounded in eastern Ghazni province when an attacker drove a military vehicle full of explosives onto an army commando base before detonating it.

The other attack took place in southern Afghanistan, where a suicide bomber targeted the convoy of provincial council chief Attajan Haqbayat in Zubal, where at least three people were killed and 12 were injured, including children. No group claimed responsibility for the attacks. Further, these attacks took place as Afghan government representatives and the Taliban are holding talks in Qatar.

Issues at large
First, the steady rise of militancy and conflicts over the past couple of months. According to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) violence has surged across Afghanistan in recent months, with ground fighting causing the most casualties followed by suicide and roadside bomb attacks, targeted killings by the Taliban and air raids by Afghan troops. Further, the UNAMA report claimed that violence has also failed to slow since the beginning of talks between government negotiators and the Taliban that began in Doha. Earlier in November US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said attacks by anti-government forces have increased by 50 per cent in the third quarter of the year, compared to the second quarter.

Second, Afghan forces are still not capable of providing security. According, to the acting Defence Minister the Afghan forces have been independently conducting 96 per cent of operations, adding that they receive air support from international forces only when needed. Although Afghan officials have stated that their military is capable of fighting militant aggression once foreign troops leave the country, the Afghan forces still depend on outside support against such attacks. Further, the US's decision to withdraw only make it more difficult for the Afghan forces, who ultimately need to reduce their reliance on foreign support.

Third, the surge in Islamic State terrorist attacks in Afghanistan. There has been an alarming surge in IS terrorist attacks mostly targeting the civilian population in Afghanistan. The IS has carried out numerous high-profile attacks in Kabul in recent years, the most recent being the attack on the Kabul University. Although there have been many campaigns to curb this terrorist group, it still maintains capable terrorist cells in cities like Kabul, protected by secure messaging apps and careful communication with outside leadership.

In perspective
First, the blame game continues with no one held responsibly. The government has blamed the Taliban for the attacks, but the Taliban has denied responsibility. This leaves the question of who is behind these attacks and for what reason. Further, although IS has claimed responsibility for few of the attacks that have taken place over the last weeks it is still not clear if they are solely responsible for these attacks.  

Second, the inability of the intra- Afghan talks to prevent such attacks. Although both sides have stated that they had resolved most issues on how the negotiations should be conducted, the question of reduction of violence is yet to be addressed. Further, the US withdrawal of troops as violence continues rise is likely to further complicate the intra- Afghan Talks.

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