Attacks in Afghanistan continue despite peace talks

Suicide bombing, gunfight at security base ends with 5 police, 10 assailants dead

Afghan National Army (ANA) officers take part in a training exercise at the Kabul Military Training Centre (KMTC) in Kabul, Afghanistan October 17, 2017 (photo credit: REUTERS/OMAR SOBHANI)
Afghan National Army (ANA) officers take part in a training exercise at the Kabul Military Training Centre (KMTC) in Kabul, Afghanistan October 17, 2017
(photo credit: REUTERS/OMAR SOBHANI)
[Islamabad] At least five police Special Forces members were killed and more than 35 persons were wounded, including 11 civilians, when an explosives-laden car stormed a police base in the eastern Afghani city of Khost on Tuesday.
Khost Province Gov. Sediq Patman said security personnel prevented two additional car bombs from exploding.
The blast was followed by a fierce battle between gunmen and security forces that ended after nine hours.
Talib Mengal, Khost provincial spokesman, told The Media Line that in addition to the three terrorists who died exploding their vehicle, “all seven gunmen” were killed.
“The attack was launched early in the morning, before the start of normal working hours, when an explosive-laden car was blown up at the main gate of the special police base,” Mengal noted.
“After the blast, a group of militants tried to enter the compound,” he continued. “Four militants were neutralized early on. The remaining three were subsequently killed.”
Neither the Taliban nor any other group claimed responsibility or issued any response regarding the attack.
Dr. Fazal e Agha, a senior medical official, told The Media Line that “11 women and children were among the injured persons who were brought to the medical facility.”
On October 19, Abdul Hai Zazai, district governor of Zazai Maidan in eastern Khost Province, was killed along with a bodyguard in an ambush by unidentified gunmen. He was on his way to Kabul.
Khost, population 180,000, is the largest city in the southeastern part of the country and capital of the province of the same name.
“As Khost borders Pakistan’s restive Waziristan area, it is the home of al-Qaida militants and banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan militants as well,” Nadir Wardak, a Kabul-based intelligence official, told The Media Line. “Even Pakistani security forces deployed in the Waziristan area have been repeatedly targeted by such militants.”
Wardak confirmed to The Media Line that Afghan security forces “killed Husam Abdul Rauf Al Misri, deputy head of al-Qaida and head of al-Qaida for the Indian Subcontinent, in an intelligence-based operation.” The operation took place on Saturday in central Ghazni Province, about 95 miles south of Kabul.
Misri, an Egyptian, was on the FBI’s list of most-wanted terrorists. A federal warrant for his arrest was issued in the US District Court in New York in December 2018 after he was charged with conspiracy and providing material support and resources to kill US citizens.
Violence has intensified in Afghanistan even as the Kabul administration and the Taliban are engaged in long-awaited intra-Afghan peace talks.
On Saturday, a suicide bombing targeting the Hazara Shi’ite minority at the Kowsar-e Danesh educational center in Kabul killed at least 18 students and wounded more than 57 others. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack.
In February 2020, the Taliban reached an agreement with the US in Doha, Qatar, where the Taliban maintain an office. The Islamist group committed to refrain from attacking US-led international forces in Afghanistan, and to cease all assistance given to other Islamist groups, such as al-Qaida. In return, foreign forces would leave the country within 14 months.
The Media Line spoke exclusively with Arash Yaqin, an Afghani security analyst with the Institute of World Politics in Washington.
“With only a week left until the US presidential election, there are still no achievements in the Afghan peace process,” he stated.
“The February US-Taliban agreement, which was supposed to be a quick victory and the capstone of [President Donald] Trump’s foreign policy, seems to be more complicated than a quick, reconstructed peace process,” he added.
“America’s endless war continues, the NATO troops in Afghanistan are still actively engaged on the battlefield, and there is no sign of agreement between the Taliban and the Afghan government in Doha,” Yaqin continued.
“Meanwhile, the violence against Afghan civilians has not slowed down. The daily attacks continue, including the latest attack on minority educational centers in Kabul, where scores of young students have been killed and injured,” he said.
Yaqin says the situation “is worrisome for Afghans who are thinking back to 1996 and Kabul’s fall” to the Taliban.
“This means that both the Afghan government and the Taliban must realize that they can’t continue with the current cat and mouse game of delaying the peace process, hoping that the next US president comes up with another Nobel Peace Prize solution,” he stated.
“From the American perspective, it is clear that regardless of whether it is [the Democrat Joe] Biden or Trump who gets elected, the American troops will leave Afghanistan entirely or [perhaps] except for a small US intelligence team presence that will be responsible for counter-terrorism,” he explained.
“Both [Afghan] parties have to take responsibility and bring peace to the Afghan nation, and, if needed, invite the mediators for further negotiation,” he said, adding that the regional players and Afghanistan neighbors need to come up with constructive peace solutions rather than “playing with their proxy or geopolitical wars.”
The risk is high for continued Afghan civil war and further destabilization of the region, he said, quoting the Spanish philosopher George Santayana: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Irina Tsukerman, a New York-based security expert, called the Doha agreement “a disastrous, face-saving measure” in an “otherwise cowardly and poorly thought-out” exit from Afghanistan by the US.
“The result has been consistently damaging to the US reputation and security in the region,” she told The Media Line.
“One should fully expect the return and growth of major international terrorist organizations in the region, and intensified squabbling by various state actors that will lead to further splintering, providing room for increased terrorist financing and money laundering, and [its spread] to neighboring countries,” she added.
“Groups already taking advantage or creating chaos and destabilization elsewhere in the world will be able to recruit followers and backers from Afghanistan, whereas the civilian population once again will find itself oppressed under the yoke of extremists,” Tsukerman noted.
“Whatever gains have been made for civil society,” she continued, “women’s rights and political liberalization will be undone, reversed and worse.”
Discussing the US troop withdrawal, Naeem Khalid Lodhi, a leading regional security analyst and a former Pakistani general and defense minister, told the Media Line that “the US is not leaving Afghanistan by choice” but rather by compulsion – and therefore it will continue having an impact on the region.
“Being the [world’s] greatest power, and with its anti-China agenda, the US will not leave Afghanistan alone and in peace. It will use money, proxies, India and some neighboring countries to either tame the Taliban or instigate turmoil,” he predicted.
“The Afghan forces will split and become weaker. Some will join the ranks of the Taliban,” Lodhi continued.
“This time, the power struggle is likely to be short but intense,” he noted. “The Taliban are likely to prevail, but having learned their lesson, they will cobble together a broad-based government, sans [current President] Ashraf Ghani.”

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