487 Killed in Three Months – a Brutal and Bloody First Round of Negotiations

Government statistics show that as the first round of intra-Afghan peace talks was held, nearly 500 civilians were killed by the Taliban and more than 1,000 others were wounded. The Interior Ministry reports that the Taliban have carried out more than 30 suicide attacks and have installed and detonated more than 500 magnetic mines since the start of the intra-Afghan talks. Authorities say that the killing of civilians by the Taliban is a “war crime” and there is no justification for it. The Taliban, however, deny the government’s claim, saying that they have no need to attack civilians. The group blames security forces for civilian casualties and states that in less than a month, 200 civilians have been killed in airstrikes and rocket attacks by security forces in Taliban-controlled areas. Although the government, the United States and some other organizations have called on the Taliban to reduce the violence, the group has so far not responded positively. Pakistani officials, meanwhile, after meeting with the Taliban negotiating team, said that reducing violence was not the group’s sole responsibility and that all sides should play their part.

The intra-Afghan peace talks began in Doha on September 12 this year, and the first round ended after three months on December 12. Security agencies report that 487 civilians were killed in Taliban attacks during that period. Interior Ministry spokesman Tariq Arian said on Saturday, December 18, that 1,049 other civilians had been injured. According to him, these casualties occurred during 35 suicide attacks and 507 mine explosions involving civilians. Arian added that the Taliban had harmed civilians and public facilities “against all human and Islamic values ​​and their commitments”. A spokesman for the Interior Ministry called the civilian casualties a “war crime” and said that the attacks were not justified.

The Taliban, however, referred to the figures provided by the Interior Ministry as part of “propaganda” and denied the civilian casualties claimed to have been caused by the group. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the group’s fighters did not need to attack public places, and that the government could not prove a single example of 35 Taliban-linked suicide attacks on civilian targets in the past three months. However, the Taliban have also recorded statistics of violence in areas under their control. Mujahid added that in less than a month, at least 200 civilians were killed in airstrikes and rocket attacks by security forces and local police. According to him, nearly 100 attacks were carried out by security forces on Taliban-controlled civilian areas in the past three weeks.

In the last three months, however, there have been major attacks across the country. As a result of the attacks on Kabul University, Kawsar Danish Educational Center and Bamyan’s capital, nearly 100 civilians were killed. The Taliban, however, denied involvement in those attacks. Both sides blame each other for the civilian casualties, calling the continuation of the violence “worrying”. President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, in a meeting with Mark Milley, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, expressed concern about the escalation of violence by the Taliban. At the same time, Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the Supreme National Reconciliation Council, stressed the importance of a “significant reduction in violence” during the talks. Mark Milley, however, met with the Taliban negotiating team and called on the group to reduce violence, as the continuation of the situation could pose a challenge to the talks. The Taliban, however, have not yet responded positively.

Earlier, some members of the Taliban negotiating team traveled to Pakistan as soon as the first round of intra-Afghan talks ended and met with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi. After meeting with the Taliban negotiating team, Qureshi said that despite the start of peace talks, the level of violence in Afghanistan has not decreased. He emphasized that the reduction of violence was not the sole responsibility of the Taliban and that all parties needed to play their part. Pakistan, meanwhile, emphasized that efforts by its envoys in Doha to persuade the Taliban to reduce violence had not been successful. According to the schedule, the second round of talks is scheduled to begin next year on January fifth. Officials in the government had previously said that reducing violence was one of the main issues to be discussed in the second round of intra-Afghan talks.