Monthly conflict tracker highlights


Month saw deadly attacks on both sides; Taliban’s ceasefire and govt’s release of prisoners in later part of month raised prospects intra-Afghan peace process could start in Aug.

Despite international expectations intra-Afghan dialogue could begin in July, peace process remained on hold for most of month with attacks on both sides and delays in further govt release of prisoners. Taliban intensified attacks on major highways in north, including assault along Kabul to Mazar-e Sharif highway in Sar-e Pul province 7-14 July and clashes on Shibergan-to Mazar highway in Jawzjan province and Kabul-Kunduz highway in Baghlan province (north). While Taliban continued to refrain from attacks on large cities, some major attacks took place. Notably, Taliban 13 July bombed govt intelligence agency in Aybak, capital of Samangan province (north), killing ten and injuring over 50, in first high-profile Taliban-claimed attack on provincial capital since Feb U.S.-Taliban agreement; also launched 13-17 July series of suicide vehicles bombings in Kandahar (south) and Wardak (centre) provinces, with group justifying attacks as “retaliations” for violations of agreement by govt forces, blaming U.S. for not preventing govt attacks. Meanwhile, govt increased airstrikes against suspected Taliban targets with reported high civilian toll; govt air raids 22 July reportedly killed some 45 people, including civilians, in Kham Zaiarat area, Herat province (west); U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalizad next day condemned airstrikes as well as “recent Taliban attacks”, urging “all sides to contain the violence”. Taliban 18 July reshuffled negotiating team and restructured political office in Doha ahead of future talks, incorporating figures from differing wings of movement. Domestic political stasis continued despite President Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah’s May agreement to form inclusive govt; Ghani 18 July reappointed hardline interior and defence ministers who hold tough stance toward Taliban; many provincial governors and ministerial positions remained unfilled. In major step forward and following U.S. pressure, Taliban 28 July announced second three-day ceasefire for Eid holiday and govt responded, declaring final hundreds prisoners of total 5,000 to be released, raising prospect intra-Afghan dialogue could begin in August.