Taliban attacks in the Afghan capital of Kabul are on the rise, with an increase in targeted killings of officials, civil society leaders and journalists, according to a report by a US watchdog.
The report of the Special Inspector General for the Reconstruction of Afghanistan, known as SIGAR, comes on Monday as the Biden administration plans to take a fresh look at the peace agreement between the United States and the United States. Taliban signed last February under President Donald Trump.
“The enemy attacks in Kabul were more numerous than in the previous quarter,” according to the report citing US forces in Afghanistan. “They were much higher than in the same quarter last year.”
Wave of attacks
The Taliban unleashed a wave of attacks in Afghanistan in December, including attacks in northern Baghlan and southern Uruzgan provinces, over a two-day period, which killed at least 19 members of the security forces Afghans. In Kabul, a roadside bomb hit a vehicle, injuring two people, and a lawyer was shot dead in a targeted murder.
Resolute Support, the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan, reported 2,586 civilian casualties from October 1 to December 31 last year, including 810 killed and 1,776 injured, according to the SIGAR report.
The report says the proportion of casualties caused by improvised explosive devices increased by nearly 17% during this quarter, correlating with an increase in magnetically attached IEDs or “sticky bomb” attacks, according to the report.
Despite the continuing violence, the death toll in Afghanistan in the last quarter of 2020 fell 14% from the previous quarter. However, the quarter saw an unusually high number of casualties during the winter months, when the fighting normally ceases.
The United States has been the main backer of the Afghan government since it invaded the country shortly after September 11, 2001, attacking and overthrowing the Taliban, who ruled the country and harbored al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. The United States spends about $ 4 billion a year to help the Afghan security forces.
Corruption is rampant among Afghan government ministries, driving a wedge between the government and much of the population, frustrating international donors and contributing to the country’s poverty level of over 72%, according to the World Bank.
In addition, according to recent reports from international aid agencies, more than half of Afghans are in desperate need of assistance to survive in 2021.
Endemic corruption has alienated most Afghans caught between war and relentless poverty, despite billions of dollars in international aid.
By the end of 2020, Afghanistan’s unemployment rate is expected to reach 37.9 percent, up from 23.9 percent in 2019, according to the report.
Taliban officials and the Afghan government earlier this month resumed peace talks in Qatar, the Gulf state where the armed group has an office. The talks aim to end decades of conflict, but frustration and fear have grown over the recent outbreak of violence, and each side blames the other.
‘Review’ of the peace agreement
The White House said President Joe Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan told his Afghan counterpart in a phone call last week that the new administration would “revise” the agreement between the United States. and the Taliban.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said last week that the United States remains committed to the deal for a full troop withdrawal, but the deal also calls on the Taliban to sever ties with Al-Qaeda and reduce violence.
The U.S. military said earlier this month that it had achieved its goal of reducing the number of troops in Afghanistan to around 2,500.
Senior US commanders are skeptical of the Taliban’s stated commitment to peace, although they have said they can accomplish their mission in Afghanistan at this level of troops.
“As the footprint of US agencies continues to shrink, it will become increasingly important that the US and other donors exercise aggressive and effective oversight of their dollars and programs,” the Special Inspector General said. for Afghan reconstruction John F Sopko.
U.S. air raids escalated in the last quarter of 2020, with U.S. forces providing defensive support to Afghan security forces, according to the U.S. military. He reaffirmed that since the signing of the US-Taliban agreement, US forces have ceased offensive attacks against the Taliban.
The authorized strength of the Afghan Defense Force has been adjusted downward to 208,000, according to the SIGAR report. It was around 227,000 for many years.
Afghan special forces carried out the most ground operations in the last quarter of 2020 in more than a year, NATO said.
The 1,152 ground operations were almost double the number performed during the same period last year, reflecting a 4% increase from the previous quarter.