Attacks are on rise again in Afghanistan

Militants have carried out wave of assaults in capital and other cities in recent weeks, but many are going unclaimed

Afghan security forces stand guard near the site of an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan June 12, 2020.REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
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Two employees of Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission were killed in a bombing on Saturday morning in Kabul, when an improvised explosive device attached to their Toyota Corolla detonated.

They were Fatima Khalil, 24, a donor liaison co-ordinator, and Jawed Folad, 41, a driver.

The killings showed that a surge in violence was under way across Afghanistan, but also that those behind the surge were not inclined to claim responsibility for their actions.

Saturday’s attack, for which there has been no claim, took place days after an announcements that direct talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government could begin in coming weeks.

On Monday, five employees of the Attorney General’s office who worked at Bagram Detention Centre were shot on the outskirts of Kabul.

That day, the Afghan National Police reported 18 roadside bombs in Logar, Khost and Paktia provinces.

They were, the Ministry of Interior said, “planted to target civilians”.

On June 19, an explosion in Kabul’s western Paghman district hit the family of Afghan writer Assadullah Walwalji, killing four people, including his wife and daughter.

Days before, Nuristan province’s Governor Hafez Abdul Qayum survived a gun attack while on the way to Kabul. One of his bodyguards was killed.

“Over the past 18 months of negotiations between the US and Taliban, one of the more notable shifts in the conflict was a marked decrease in high-profile attacks in Kabul," said Andrew Watkins, senior analyst at the International Crisis Group.

"At one point, nearly six months went by without a major explosion.

“But since the US-Taliban agreement was signed in late February, bombings, killings and disruptions to daily life are back on the rise.

"In some cases, the responsible parties seem clear, but in many the details are murky.

"The timing suggests that whether one party or many are responsible, there are strong interests aligned against peace."

Saturday’s attack led to an outcry from the Afghan and international community, and demands for an investigation.

“When Natasha was born, we didn't have 500 rupees to pay the midwife,” said Khalil's sister, Lima Ahmad.

"Poverty didn't lead her to become a terrorist. She knew five languages by age 16 and had two degrees by 22.

"She knew Islam more than her killers."

Ms Ahmad's husband, Omaid Sharifi, said: “The pain is so devastating. The loss is so great."

Khalil was a recent graduate from the American University of Central Asia in Kyrgyzstan.

Folad left a wife and three children. Both victims have been buried.

“Fatima was driven, bold, committed. She signified hope and courage,” Shaharzad Akbar, the IHRC’s chairwoman, wrote in a tweet.

"Jawed was kind, courteous and loyal. They came from different parts of Afghanistan and had different life journeys.

"What they had in common was that they were both Afghan civilians, working for human rights and peace."

As attacks increase, Afghans recalled 2014, when US president Barack Obama announced that it was “time to turn the page on a decade in which so much of our foreign policy was focused on the [war] in Afghanistan”.

Mr Obama announced plans to withdraw the last US troops from the country by the end of 2016.

Fearing an escalation and an insecure future, hundreds of thousands of Afghans fled, many towards Europe.

Since the February 29 agreement between the US and the Taliban, US troop numbers have decreased but violence has increased.

Many feared that the situation would deteriorate further.

Qary Ahmad, a former Al Qaeda trainer who liaised with the Taliban, said the group strengthened since the US peace agreement, in part because of fewer air strikes.

“I don’t think the Taliban will make peace with the Afghan government, but if they joined the government and accepted democracy, many fighters would join other militant groups," Mr Ahmad said.

"As for the future, I think it will continue to be violent."