Though the Taliban leadership council have reportedly agreed to a truce demand, the situation on the ground is speaking out the opposite—more hostilities, violence, and bloodshed. Against the backdrop of a normal reduction in violence during the winter season, the warring parties have increased military campaign unexpectedly across the country.
41 Afghan military forces along with pro-government
forces have been killed as the result of Taliban attacks over past four days in
Helmand, Jowzjan, and Takhar provinces. In their deadliest attacks, carried out
on Saturday, December 28, the Taliban militants killed 17 People Uprising
Forces – a pro-government militia – in the northern Takhar and 10 military
forces in the southern Helmand province.
On the other hand, the Afghan Ministry of Defense (MoD)
says Afghan defense and security forces have increased airstrikes, night raids,
and special operations in winter season. According to the ministry, Afghan
forces have hit the Taliban militants more than ever during past week.
“More than 10 Taliban [militants] are killed and wounded
in every attack,” said Fawad Aman, the MoD deputy spokesperson. “Around 100
Taliban are killed and wounded within 24 hours.” He stressed that the military
operations will intensify further and more territories will be cleared from
presence of the Taliban in the coming days.
He detailed that a wide range of territories have been
cleared from presence of the militants in western Afghanistan and three senior
commanders of the militant group have been killed in Herat province since the beginning
of winter operation in the western region.
Mr. Aman said operations are underway in the north and
south of Afghanistan. He added that 20 Taliban fighters were killed in an
airstrike carried out yesterday, December 31, in Shurabak district of Kandahar.
“The winter operation of government forces are focused on targeting the Taliban’s
key figures and commanders,” he added.
He went on to name the dead Taliban commanders killed
during past week in different parts of the country as Qari Zainul Abedin,
Taliban shadow governor for Laghman; Abdul Wasi, Taliban shadow district
governor for Nawzad district of Helmand, Abdul Maruf, the group’s shadow
district governor for Shindand district of Herat, and Habibullah known as
Khanjari, a Taliban senior local commander in Kushanda district of Balkh province.
Intensification of the war in the winter season—a season
in which the violence decreases between warring parties—comes ahead of a likely
ceasefire between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Citing unnamed Taliban
officials, the Associated Press reported on Monday, December 30, that the
ruling council of the militant group “agreed Sunday to a temporary cease-fir in
“The duration of the cease-fire was not specified but it
was suggested it would last for 10 days,” the report said, adding that it was
also not specified when the ceasefire would begin.
The report also stated that a ceasefire was demanded by
Washington before any peace deal could be signed with the Taliban.
Meanwhile, spokesperson for the Taliban political office in Qatar, Suhail Shaheen, has indirectly rejected the reports on ceasefire, calling them “propagations” spread by the media. “If there is anything , we would surely share with our people and the media,” he added.
Why has the Afghan war intensified?
With the US and the Taliban are at threshold of signing a
peace agreement, the war on the ground is intensifying. Afghan political and military
commentators believe that the warring parties have intensified fighting to show
their strengths before likely a peace pact that is expected to be signed in coming
Amirshah Nayebzada, an MP who represents Badghis province
in the Afghan parliament, believes the Taliban are striving hard at this stage
to maneuver themselves as a strong force across Afghanistan. He, however, says
that the Afghan forces have the upper hand in the western part of the country
as the result of increasing airstrikes on the militants’ strongholds.
“Air forces are very vigorous. The Taliban will be hugely
suppressed, if not defeated completely, in a short term, if the airstrikes
continues,” he said.
Assadullah Nadim, a military commentator, believes that
both the Taliban and the Afghan government, are striving hard, at this stage,
to strengthen their positions in the peace talks, and the two sides are trying
hard to hold control over their territories under their control and expand their
Contrary to the MoD’s remarks about status of the Afghan
security forces against the Taliban, Mr. Nadim said that Afghan defense and
security forces were not in well position, something that has made them more
“Only 35,000 police and army forces are stationed in
Helmand which is not bigger than Faryab province. The number will be far more
than 50,000 if we count local police forces and people uprising forces,” he
pointed as an instance, adding that the number of Afghan security forces stationed
in Faryab was very lower which made them vulnerable for the Taliban attacks.
Hiatus in US-Taliban talks
The US-Taliban resurrected peace talks in Doha, capital
of Qatar, has been halted since December 13 after a Taliban suicide bombing
targeted a medical facility close to Bagram Air Base, the main US base north of
Talking to BBC Persian service, Suhail Shaheen, has said
that the peace talks was paused at the request of the Taliban negotiators in
order to consult regarding the peace process with the group’s leadership.
The US Special Representative for Afghanistan
Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, who leads the US representatives in the talks
with the Taliban, however, said that he has expressed outrage about the attack
on Bagram. “Taliban must show they are willing and able to respond to Afghan
desire for peace,” he said in a tweet posted on December 13. “We’re taking a
brief pause for them to consult their leadership on this essential topic,” the
US envoy further noted.