With or Without Ceasefire; Blood is Split in Afghanistan

The three-day ceasefire of Eid al-Fitr has ended. The Taliban announced before Eid that they would ceasefire for three days, but it would not be extended. The government, for its part, had looked forward to a permanent ceasefire, but said it was committed to following the principles of Eid ceasefire. However, in the past three days, despite the ceasefire, nearly 20 people have been killed and about 35 others injured. The bombings in Kabul, Kandahar, Kunduz and Ghor, and the clashes in Uruzgan and Kapisa were among the acts of violence that caused the most civilian casualties. The Taliban did not claim responsibility for the blasts, but confirmed that they had targeted supply convoys of security forces during the clashes. Although a number of local officials have accused the Taliban of violating the ceasefire, the group considers the transfer of supplies from Taliban-controlled areas in such circumstances to be a misuse of the ceasefire. The security agencies are expected to announce their results from the Eid ceasefire soon after evaluating this process. However, the violence during Ramadan has been unprecedented. According to statistics, although the average number of victims reached 75 during 2021, this number was 125 deaths per day during the 23 days of Ramadan. Government officials say the Taliban are reportedly trying to launch accelerated attacks after the ceasefire. The US Embassy in Kabul has also warned its citizens about the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the government and the Taliban have returned to the negotiating table and agreed to continue the process after Eid.

The Bloody Eid Ceasefire

According to the Taliban, the three-day ceasefire for Eid al-Fitr ended with the passing of Eid. The Taliban announced on Monday (May 10) that they would ceasefire for the three days of Eid. The group’s leaders thus ordered their fighters to stop their offensive attacks during these days. The message, however, suggested that the Taliban could maintain and defend the areas under their control if security forces attacked. Although the government responded by calling for a permanent ceasefire, President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani ordered security forces to observe the ceasefire in honor of Eid. The Taliban have previously said that the ceasefire is for three days and that a permanent armistice requires a series of advances and the achievement of larger goals.

Despite the ceasefire on both sides on Eid al-Fitr, there were cases of violence in the country, which resulted in more casualties than in previous ceasefire. Officials in Kandahar announced on the first day of Eid that seven separate explosions in the province had killed seven civilians and wounded three others. The first incident took place in the Salehan area of ​​Panjwai district, where a taxi was targeted by a roadside bomb. Two children were killed and three others, including two children, were injured in the blast, according to Kandahar police. The second blast occurred at around 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, May 13, on the first day of Eid, killing five civilians. The incident took place in Maiwand district of the province and all the victims of the incident were civilians, including children and women. No individual or group took responsibility for either event.

In Kunduz, too, citizens began their Eid with an explosion. At least two civilians, including a child, were killed and 14 others, including children, were injured when a landmine exploded in the Zir Dawra area of ​​Kunduz. The explosion happened shortly after 10:30 a.m. and no individual or group claimed responsibility for the blast. Finally, the ceasefire of Eid al-Fitr became bloodier on the second day. The explosion of a landmine placed in Kabul’s Shakardara district killed 12 people. The incident took place around 1:30 a.m. on Friday, May 14, the second day of Eid, and included the death of Mufti Numan, the Imam of the Shakardara mosque. More than 15 others were killed in the blast, security officials said. The Taliban issued a statement denying involvement in the incident, calling it the work of government circles. However, no group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Later in the day, officials in Uruzgan and Kapisa provinces reported a Taliban attack on a supply convoy. According to local officials in Uruzgan, Taliban fighters attacked a supply convoy of security forces in the Kulajoi area of ​​the Uruzgan-Kandahar highway, resulting in casualties. Officials, however, did not provide exact numbers of casualties. In other news, Taliban fighters stormed the “Martyr Amrullah Resting Place” near Trincot, the provincial capital. One security guard was killed and another was injured in the attack. Local officials in Uruzgan accused the Taliban of violating the ceasefire.

In Kapisa, a supply convoy was targeted with a landmine by the Taliban. According to security officials, the incident took place on the same day in the area of ​​Qorghul Esakhil in the Tagab district of the province. According to statistics, one security force was killed and three others were injured in the blast. The incident happened when army forces were moving towards Mahmod Raqi, the capital of Kapisa, after delivering supplies. In an interview with 8 Subh, the sources also confirmed the news of the clash in this area. Although no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, sources said the Taliban were involved.

Finally, on the third of Eid, an explosion in Kabul injured three people. Kabul police said the incident took place around 9:00 am in the Surobi district. According to officials, a traffic police car was targeted by a landmine, injuring one police officer and two other civilians. The incidents took place by the end of Saturday, May 15. Although attempts were made to include the assessment of the security agencies regarding the Eid ceasefire and the possibility of its violation, according to the information, the officials of the security agencies are expected to conclude in a press conference today after a thorough review of this process.

Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesperson, denied the ceasefire violation to 8 Subh, he said the group had attacked government forces trying to bring equipment to the already besieged area. He added that the transfer of equipment to the besieged area was “abuse of ceasefire” and “against its principles” because the security forces are using the same ammunition against the fighters of this group, and this intensifies the war. According to Mojahid, the two sides were supposed to remain in their positions during the ceasefire and to refrain from any attempts at supplies. He saw the Uruzgan incident as an example of the group’s reaction, calling it not a defiance, but a “right of defense.” Meanwhile, the Taliban confirmed on their website on Saturday, May 15, the third of Eid, that an explosion in the Shorak area of ​​Ferozkuh, the center of Ghor, killed a local policeman and injured another.

“Unprecedented” Violence; 60% Increase in Casualties during Ramadan

In addition to the three-day Eid ceasefire, the month of Ramadan has also been bloody. Interior Ministry officials announced later this month that more than 250 civilians had been killed and more than 500 wounded in Taliban attacks. Ministry spokesperson Tariq Arian said that during the month of Ramadan, 15 suicide attacks were carried out by the Taliban and 200 mines were detonated. He also counted two attacks in Logar and Kabul that resulted in casualties for university entrance exam (Kankor) examinees and students and attributed them to the Taliban. About 30 people were killed and more than 100 were injured in the Logar incident. The number of explosions at the Sayed Ul-Shuhada school in Dasht-e-Barchi of Kabul also killed 85 and injured more than 150. The Taliban had previously said that 205 civilians had been killed and wounded during the 69 attacks by security forces during Ramadan.

Simultaneous with these statistics, the data by Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) show an unprecedented increase in violence during the month of Ramadan this year. While the average number of people killed in the war in Afghanistan in 2021 was reported by this organization as 75 people, this average reached 125 people per day in just 23 days of Ramadan. Although ACLED has not yet completed the statistics for the last seven days of Ramadan, in the 23 days of this month, 771 events have been recorded. The figures include 553 clashes, 164 explosions and 54 cases of direct violence against civilians. Thus, during these events, 2,880 people involved in the war and civilians were killed during the 23 days of Ramadan. This statistic totals about 11,000 deaths in 2021 so far.

The Possibility of Escalation of Violence

As the Eid ceasefire ended, some government sources indicated that Taliban violence was likely to increase. First Vice President Amrullah Saleh wrote on his Facebook page on Saturday, May 15, that the Taliban were reportedly trying to “launch rapid attacks after the ceasefire ended.” “There are also numerous reports that the Taliban are trying to launch rapid attacks after the end of the ceasefire in order to maintain the nature of violence and killing in their ranks,” Saleh added.

The United States has also warned its citizens in Afghanistan to exercise caution. The US Embassy issued a statement on Saturday, May 15, saying that violence in Afghanistan had escalated since Eid and that citizens should be careful in public places. These include public festivals, markets, places of worship, and banks. According to the US Embassy, ​​the armed opposition intends to target foreign nationals by kidnapping and attacking hotels, apartment buildings, checkpoints, government facilities and airports. The US Embassy has expressed concern that the escalation of violence is threatening the lives of US citizens, and that US citizens should refrain from traveling to Afghanistan, in line with the embassy’s April 27 declaration. The United States has also said that commercial flights are available from Hamid Karzai Airport, but that US citizens must leave Afghanistan as soon as possible.

Violence continues unabated as the two sides return to the Doha negotiating table to resume peace talks. The government’s negotiating team announced on Thursday, May 13, that the delegation’s representatives had met with the heads of the Taliban’s political bureau and members of the group’s negotiating team in Doha. During the meeting, the issues of the country, especially the peace talks, were discussed and the parties agreed to continue the talks after Eid. It is worth mentioning that the fate of the Istanbul Conference is also in a state of ambiguity and it is not clear when this conference will be held.