Increased concerns; The average daily death toll in May is 170 people

With the end of May, the war in Afghanistan is escalated. According to statistics, during the first five months of 2021, cases of clashes, explosions or rocket attacks were recorded in all 34 provinces of the country. The average daily casualties of the Afghan war in 2021, the month of Ramadan and especially May, which is the deadline for the withdrawal of foreign troops in the Doha agreement, has also reached its maximum. This statistic has increased to 123 people in the first five months of the current year, to 137 people in Ramadan and to 170 people per day in May. As many as 15,000 people on both sides of clashing parties and civilians have been killed in the war in Afghanistan this year. Meanwhile, civilian casualties have also risen. At the same time, the UN Security Council has expressed concern about the situation in Afghanistan. According to the organization, the Taliban still have ties with al-Qaeda and ISIS continues to operate in Afghanistan. On the other hand, this institution has unveiled the Taliban source of income. The Taliban are estimated to have generated between $300 million and $1.6 billion in revenue in 2020, most of it through mining, drug trafficking, highway extortion, kidnapping and targeted assassinations. The report also revealed the presence of fighters from various regional groups, tensions within the Taliban and other important issues. The Taliban, however, have denied the allegations in a statement issued Friday stating “Similar, baseless allegations concerning the UN Security Council have been made more than once.

Nearly 15,000 killed in the first five months of 2021

Statistics show that the domain of the war between security forces and Taliban fighters is expanding sharply. Only one month since the withdrawal of foreign troops, there have been cases of clashes, explosions or rocket attacks in 34 provinces of the country without exception. During the first five months of 2021, 4,471 security incidents occurred in the country, according to statistics recorded by the Event and Armed Conflict Data Project (ECD). This figure includes 3,053 clashes, 1,129 explosions and 283 cases of direct violence against civilians. As a result, 14,575 people, including security forces, Taliban fighters and civilians, were killed. Thus, the average daily death toll in the war in Afghanistan in 2021 is about 123 people. This statistic has increased significantly with the beginning of May and the arrival of Ramadan. During the month of Ramadan (April 13, 2021 to May 13 this year), at least 4,104 people were killed in the war in Afghanistan. This statistic accounts for more than a quarter of the total statistics in the five months of this year. The average daily death toll in the country during Ramadan was 137 people, which is about 14 people compared to normal days in 2021 and almost doubled compared to the 2020 average. That number was about 80 in 2020. In May, however, the situation worsened. During the 28 days of this month, when the statistics were combined, 4,771 people were killed. The average daily death toll in the Afghan war has risen to 170 this month.

In addition to security forces and Taliban fighters, civilian casualties have risen across the country. Although opposing parties in the conflict release different statistics on civilian casualties, the Office of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said that 1,783 civilians were killed and wounded in the first three months of 2021, which shows a 29 percent increase as compared to 2020. However, daily statistics on the war in Afghanistan also show an increase in civilian casualties. In some cases, the government has even warned civilians to stay away from public places to not be harmed in the event of attacks by security forces on areas used by the Taliban as bases. A part of this warning was issued by the governor of Logar on May 23rd this year; Exactly when the Taliban claimed control of 85% of the province. The statement said security forces would soon launch a “large-scale operation” against Taliban fighters across Logar, and that people should remain safe during the operation.

UN: Taliban are using war as leverage

The daily increase in violence in the country also worries the United Nations. In its twelfth report by the Security Assistance and Sanctions Analysis Team, the Security Council said that the security in Afghanistan was worse than in the recent past. One of the reasons for the escalation of violence has been the lack of confidence in the peace process and the Taliban’s resistance to the pressure from security forces. According to the agency, the conflict between the parties has even complicated the provision of humanitarian assistance needed to manage the corona crisis in Afghanistan. The report covers the situation in Afghanistan from late May 2020 to April 2021, which was presented to the council on April 28 and became public on June 1.

According to the report, the Taliban group has stopped attacks on foreign forces, but has accelerated the process against security forces. According to council analysts, although the position of Taliban leader Mullah Hebatullah on peace in Afghanistan is still unclear, Mullah Yaqub and Sirajuddin Haqqani, as his deputies, oppose the peace talks and support a military solution. The report states that based on previous findings, the Taliban’s goals in this process are the complete withdrawal of foreign troops, the release of 7,000 prisoners, the lifting of UN sanctions, and the recognition of their government by the international community. The UN Security Council believes that the Taliban are still seeking a military advantage in order to gain more concessions, and will continue this strategy in 2021.

According to the United Nations, the Taliban leadership council, which is actually the Quetta Shura, is pursuing a diplomatic policy and military strategy, use of negotiation and raising the level of the Taliban to gain power. Although the Taliban are said to have internal disputes and tensions based on reports, they remain ostensibly united. The Quetta council actually controls the Taliban in 11 southern, southwestern and western provinces, while the Peshawar council controls the Taliban in 19 provinces, and both councils continue to operate simultaneously in Kabul, the report said. According to the UN Security Council, the two Taliban councils are exchanging fighters to bolster their operations, but the group’s leaders are also concerned about independent operations and the exercise of power by their commanders.

Thus, tensions between some of the group’s political and military leaders, including Sadr Ibrahim and Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir, are said to reflect internal rivalries, tribal tensions and differences within the Taliban. According to the UN Security Council, the Taliban leadership has consistently maintained its ostensible unity while trying to hide its differences and internal tensions. These disputes include tribal rivalry, the allocation of drug resources, and the autonomy of commanders. It has also been clarified that the Taliban have changed the governors and their military commanders in Helmand, Kandahar and Zabul several times.

Unprecedented violence

The UN Security Council said in a report titled “2020 War Season and Expectations for 2021” that despite expectations, 2020 was the most violent year in Afghanistan, with 25,000 incidents recorded which shows an increase compared to 2019. According to the organization, the intensity of the clashes in the cold season was much higher than in the spring and summer of 2020, and from January 1 to March 31, 1,798 events were recorded, which shows a 61% increase over the same time period in 2020. According to UN figures, the Taliban currently has 58,000 to 100,000 fighters, the number of which varies; Because some of them are present on the battlefields and others are used as substitutes. The United Nations has called the Taliban “strong” as it has been for years.

The report states that the Haqqani network under Sirajuddin Haqqani, the Taliban’s first deputy prime minister, is one of the most prepared for the current war. According to the United Nations, although the network has merged with the Taliban, it has maintained its semi-independent status and reports directly to the Taliban High Council. The UN Security Council said the network had “a highly skilled members specializing in sophisticated attacks and technical skills” with considerable expertise in homemade bombs and rockects. The network numbers 3,000 to 10,000 people, most of whom operate in Khost, Paktia and Paktika provinces. The group has been described as the Taliban’s center of communication and cooperation with foreign terrorist groups in the region and the group’s main liaison with al-Qaeda.

UN member states have said the Taliban now control 50 to 70 percent of Afghanistan’s territory and control areas outside the cities. According to the UN Security Council, the group has direct access to 57% of the administrative centers in the areas under its control. According to the council, the Taliban captured some districts and lost some during 2020 and 2021. The Taliban’s attack on Lashkar Gah and parts of Helmand has also been an attempt by the group to assess its capabilities. Taliban attacks on a number of northern and northeastern provinces have also been described as the group’s attempt to control highways to facilitate the illegal trade in drugs and mines.

It also stated that in attacks on civil society activists, journalists, university professors, doctors and others, although no one claimed responsibility, the Taliban were involved in 85% of the attacks. According to the council, Taliban slogans and reports of their preparations indicate that the group is stepping up its military operations to 2021. Meanwhile, the UN Security Council believes that the Taliban’s denial of the Peshawar Council meeting, while emphasizing on the spiritual rewards of war during Ramadan, has supported these speculations.

The Taliban have not severed ties with al-Qaeda

In part of the report, the UN Security Council said the Taliban remained aligned with al-Qaeda and showed no signs of severing ties. Eighteen member states have said the relationship has deepened due to personal ties, including marriage and cohabitation. According to the organization, the Doha agreement sets the level of expectations for the severance of long-term ties between the Taliban and al-Qaeda, but the expectations are not defined and its annexes are hidden. According to the report, al-Qaeda operates in 15 provinces, particularly in the eastern, southern and southeastern regions, but its members have been relocated to remote areas by the Taliban to avoid exposing them to potential dangers. In addition, it has been stated that al-Qaeda maintains ties with the Taliban, but seeks to minimize its apparent links to the group’s leadership in order not to jeopardize the Taliban’s diplomatic position in the Doha agreement.

The group says most al-Qaeda leaders are based in the Afghan-Pakistani border region and work closely together in the Indian subcontinent through contacts with the core. Al-Qaeda’s short-term strategy in the report is to “maintain its traditional refuge in Afghanistan to lead the al-Qaeda core” in order to organize attacks against international targets in its long-term strategy. The number of al-Qaeda members is tens to hundreds, with a non-Afghan core, including North Africans and Middle Easterners. Although the level of the Taliban’s relations with al-Qaeda has been described as “low”, a member of the organization has said that the Taliban have regular contacts with al-Qaeda in the peace debate. The council considers al-Qaeda’s propaganda affiliation with the group’s presence in 18 provinces of Afghanistan and their satisfaction with the agreement with the United States under the name of “Reward of Jihad” as clear signs of the group’s presence in Afghanistan.

UN estimate: The Taliban’s annual revenue is $300 million to $1.3 billion

According to a UN Security Council study, the Taliban meet their financial needs through “criminal activities” and part of the Taliban’s income comes from foreign funding, including donations from wealthy individuals and a network of non-governmental charities. Although it is impossible to determine the Taliban’s annual income, members of the UN Security Council have said the group has an estimated annual income of $300 million to $1.6 billion. The Taliban reportedly earned $464 million in mining in 2020. Some government officials also said in the report that the Taliban controlled mining areas in 280 points in 26 provinces. However, according to the UN Security Council, there is no information on actual mines under government control and a valid method for measuring the amount extracted on a daily basis.

In another part of the report, it is stated that according to the report of the UN member states, drugs are one of the most important sources of income for the Taliban and it is estimated that the group has earned $460 million in 2020 in drug trade. According to the agency, statistics show that despite the Corona crisis, drug production in Afghanistan and its trade with other countries has not decreased. The report also emphasizes Taliban extortion on highways as a source of income. Targeting infrastructure services, corporate employees, kidnappings and target killings have also been cited as part of the Taliban’s organized efforts for maximizing the group’s earnings.

ISIS is still a threat

In part, the UN Security Council said that despite heavy ISIS casualties in Kunar and Nangarhar provinces, the group was still a threat to Afghanistan and the region. It is further stated that ISIS is organizing its ranks by focusing on recruiting and training new fighters who are leaving the Taliban. The group’s fighters are estimated to be between 1,500 and 2,200, mostly in Kunar and Nangarhar provinces. However, it is said that the group is now forced to decentralize and operates more as small nuclei across the country. Thus, the nuclei of this group each operate independently and the citizens of Afghanistan and Pakistan are present in it. In Tajik and Uzbek areas, including Badakhshan, Kunduz and Sar-e Pol, smaller groups of ISIS fighters have been formed. The group’s presence in the north has been called “stronger”.

According to a UN Security Council study, ISIS leadership sees Afghanistan as a base for expanding its influence in Central and South Asia. In part, the report said that while some member states had reported tactical cooperation between ISIS and Haqqani commanders, others had denied it. However, there have been reports of some attacks being denied by the Taliban and claimed responsibility by ISIS, but it is unclear whether the attacks were carried out by the Haqqani Network alone or as a joint venture between ISIS with ISIS is command of the operation. However, it has been clarified that the number of ISIS attacks has decreased significantly compared to previous years.

There are between 8,000 and 10,000 foreign fighters in Afghanistan

The report says in part that the Taliban have maintained a long-standing relationship with foreign fighters and that nationals of various countries and militant groups have continued to operate in Afghanistan. According to a number of UN Security Council member states, the Taliban sometimes tolerate or protect these individuals. The number of fighters is estimated at 8,000 to 10,000, mostly from Central Asia, the North Caucasus, Pakistan and the Xinjiang region of China. However, it has been clarified that most of these individuals are affiliated with the Taliban, but at the same time many of them support al-Qaeda and some are either allied with or sympathizing with ISIS. The council said the Taliban had issued a warrant, which included some details of the guidelines, and includes a unit dedicated to the training and welfare of the ISIS fighters.

Thus, first of all, a head count of these people and their characteristics and affiliations must be documented. They are also barred from participating in the war, traveling illegally, and displaying flags, and are required to live in designated areas. The Taliban’s instructions not to include foreigners in the group have also been cited. However, it is clear that this was part of the Taliban’s effort to show that they are complying with the Doha agreement. The report also emphasizes the continuing ties between the Taliban and the Tahreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. The number of fighters of this group is estimated to be between 2,500 and 6,000. The report also mentions the presence of the Islamic Movement of East Turkestan, which is mostly present in Badakhshan and other neighboring provinces, with the aim of establishing a Uighur state in China’s Xinjiang province. The presence of 700 members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, led by Jafar Yuldash, was also mentioned.

Improvements in the situation in Afghanistan, including the peace process, has been cited as affective on the presence and activities of foreign fighters. According to the UN Security Council, pressure on the Taliban to take action against foreign fighters has not been successful, and the Taliban and al-Qaeda’s denial of “conclusive evidence” could be problematic in international dialogue with the Taliban. The Taliban have reacted to the report, saying it was “false information from their enemy circles” and that its misused by the position of the UN Security Council. The group has stated that it is still committed to its provisions, despite some violations of the Doha agreement by the United States.