Targeted Killings Increase in Afghanistan, Says US Watchdog

The report also said that the violence continued in Afghanistan despite renewed calls from US officials.

The Taliban and Deash have increased targeted assassinations outside of Kabul and that the Taliban attacks in the Afghan capital are on the rise, with increasing targeted killings of government officials, civil society leaders and journalists, the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said in a report released on January 30.

“Five journalists were killed in the last two months of 2020, as well as a number of civil-society leaders,” the report says.

The report says that violence trends high levels of insurgent and extremist violence continued in Afghanistan this quarter despite renewed calls from US officials for all sides to reduce violence in an effort to advance the ongoing peace process between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

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 wounded, according to SIGAR report.

The report says the proportion of casualties caused by IED increased by nearly 17 percent in this quarter, correlating with an increase in magnetically attached IEDs or “sticky bomb” attacks, the report said.

Despite the ongoing violence, casualties across Afghanistan in the last quarter of 2020 decreased by 14%, compared to the previous quarter. The quarter saw an exceptionally high number of casualties for the winter months, however, when fighting normally subsides.

“Key trends in the group’s violent activity this quarter include increased attacks in Kabul City; an uptick in targeted assassinations of Afghan government officials, civil-society leaders, and journalists; and intensified efforts of progovernment forces against Taliban strongholds in Helmand and Kandahar Provinces,” it said.

The report also mentioned that the USFOR-A data on enemy attacks in Kabul this quarter confirm opensource reporting that violence in Kabul has increased considerably. According to USFOR-A, “enemy attacks in Kabul were higher than during the previous quarter.”

“They were much higher than in the same quarter last year.” The uptick in activity includes attacks by Daesh.

“Enemy attacks in Kabul were higher than during the previous quarter,” the report quoted the US forces in Afghanistan as saying. “They were much higher than in the same quarter last year.”

5 killed in targeted attacks in 24 hours

At least five people were killed in targeted attacks in Kabul and two were wounded in attacks by armed robbers in less than 24 hours, according to security officials and sources on Monday.

The first incident occurred in the Afshar area in Kabul’s PD5 on Sunday evening, in which two security guards of the former election commission chief Yusuf Nuristani were killed, police confirmed.

Two civilians meanwhile were wounded in an attack by armed robbers in Kabul’s PD12 on Sunday evening.

On the same day, two residents of Paktia, who were civilians, were killed in the Shahrak-e-Amniat area in Kabul’s PD12.

Meanwhile, an NDS member was killed in an attack by unknown armed men in the Company area in Kabul’s PD5 on Monday morning, police said.

“Kabul’s situation has worsened. Security forces are not vigilant,” said Aimal, a Kabul resident.

“Killings have increased. The government cannot control the situation. Everyone is thinking about their own interests,” said Reshad, a Kabul resident.

The EU delegation and the diplomatic missions in Afghanistan in a joint statement released on Sunday condemned the targeted killings and kidnappings in the country.

The EU delegation and the diplomatic missions of Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States as well as the NATO Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan called for an end to the assassinations, kidnappings, and the destruction of vital infrastructure – all of which directly harms the Afghan people.

“The violence is targeted at civil society, judicial, media, religious, medical and civilian government representatives who are essential to a peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan,” it said.

Figures by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission show that in 2020 over 2,000 people were killed in incidents for which no one claimed responsibility.

Foreign troops to stay in Afghanistan beyond may

Quoting four senior NATO officials, Reuters reported that international troops plan to stay in Afghanistan beyond the May deadline envisaged by the Taliban’s deal with the United States.

The US-Taliban deal signed in Doha last year in February calls for the full withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan by the end of May.

“There will be no full withdrawal by allies by April-end,” a NATO official said as quoted by Reuters.

“Conditions have not been met,” the official said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. “And with the new US administration, there will be tweaks in the policy, the sense of hasty withdrawal which was prevalent will be addressed and we could see a much more calculated exit strategy.”

The Taliban said that they will continue “defending the country” if foreign forces remain beyond the May deadline that has been set up based on a deal the group signed with the United States last year.

The Taliban also reacted to a joint statement by the European Union and other Afghan allies, including the United States, calling for an end of violence, especially targeted attacks. The group said that the group will continue defending “the values, the soil, the country and their rights” if the US-Taliban deal is not implemented.

Biden administration ‘taking hard look’ at Taliban deal

US President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, on Friday said that they are “taking a hard look” at how the Taliban is complying with its agreement with the US before deciding how to proceed.

Sullivan told an online program sponsored by the US Institute of Peace that the Taliban should participate in “real … not fake” negotiations with the Afghan government.

“What we’re doing right now, is taking a hard look at the extent to which the Taliban are in fact complying with those three conditions, and in that context, we make decisions about our force posture and our diplomatic strategy going forward,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan discussed the May 1 deadline to withdraw the remaining US forces in Afghanistan under the deal that was signed between the United States and the Taliban in Doha on February 29, 2020.