A fresh spate of violence kicked off in at least seventeen Afghan provinces on Tuesday, a day after the Taliban announced they would resume military operations against the Afghan security forces. The Afghan Ministry of Interior said there were 33 attacks by the Taliban and at least six civilians were killed in the past 24 hours.
The fighting between the two sides comes days after a weekslong Reduction in Violence (RIV) and a peace deal signed by the United States and the Taliban on Saturday. The peace deal outlined terms for the withdrawal of US and coalition forces from Afghanistan in exchange for a number of solid assurances by the Taliban, including that they cut ties to Al-Qaeda and prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for terrorist groups. The deal, signed in Doha, coincided with a joint Afghan-US declaration in Kabul that mirrored the Doha deal in laying out plans for intra-Afghan talks and an eventual ceasefire.
The expectation was that the signed agreement would lead to intra-Afghan talks between the Taliban and a delegation representing the Afghan republic's government and political and civil establishment, on the other.
But hard on the heels of the agreement, President Ashraf Ghani publicly claimed that there was no "commitment" from the Afghan government to honor a 5,000 prisoner release swap mentioned in the US-Taliban deal before intra-Afghan talks. The immediate release of the 5,000 Taliban prisoners by the government, to accompany a 1,000-person release of Afghan forces by the Taliban, is mentioned in the US-Taliban deal as a confidence-building measure.
TOLOnews saw a document apparently issued by the Taliban military commission on Monday calling on Taliban fighters to resume attacks on government forces but to avoid targeting US and other foreign forces. Also on Monday, a spokesman for the Taliban tweeted a picture of the US-Taliban deal mentioning the prisoner release. The Taliban insists that the prisoner release must precede the intra-Afghan talks.
Kandahar and Helmand provinces, in the south of the country, are known as some of the most volatile regions, and on Tuesday attacks resumed after a period of relative calm during the weeklong Reduction in Violence (RIV) that was put in place on the 22nd of February.
“They (Taliban) had 33 terrorist attacks which resulted to the martyrdom of at least six civilians and the injury of fourteen others,” said Nasrat Rahimi, a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior.
Pangram village in the eastern province of Logar is one of the areas in the eastern parts of the country which is still the control of the Taliban. On Monday, the Taliban organized a gathering in the village where they talked about the recent deal with the US.
“If the government leaders do not sit with the elders and the leaders of the (Taliban) do not agree on peace, we will continue our fighting like the past,” said Taza Gul, a Taliban commander in Logar.
A few hours after the gathering in Pangram village, reports emerged that at least five security force members were reportedly killed in a firefight with the Taliban in Mohammad Agha district of Logar.
Meanwhile, a number of residents in Logar called on the warring sides to stop the war and maintain an opportunity for peace.
“People lost their sons, women were killed, children were killed, people’s homes were destroyed, we do not want more wars, the people are thirsting for peace,” said Abdul Rahim, a resident of Charkh district of Logar.
“The people want peace, they want to go do their work, or business, or farming in a peaceful environment,” said Jan Agha, a resident in Charkh district.
Gen. Scott Miller, commander of Resolute Support Mission and US forces in Afghanistan meanwhile, in reference to the reduction in violence, said that he expects the Taliban to be serious about their obligations.
“The reduction in violence was a confidence builder. We're very serious about our obligations & we expect the Taliban will be serious about their obligations. The US has been very clear about our expectations—the violence must remain low." Said Miller as quoted by the US Forces Afghanistan USFOR-A spokesman.
“They (Taliban) taught that if we launch some attacks on us, we will escape, but we are not the people to surrender,” said Afghan President Ashraf Ghani while addressing a gathering in the eastern province of Nanagarhar.
Ghani calls on the Taliban to come and open an office in Nangarhar if they are Afghans. He questions why they have "councils" in Pakistan.
On February 22, a 7-day Reduction in Violence (RIV) plan kicked off that was intended to pave the way for a peace deal negotiated between United States and the Taliban over the past 18 months.
Based on the agreement, the US will fully withdraw its forces over the next 14 months, and that the current force of about 13,000 troops will be reduced to 8,600 within 135 days. Non-US NATO and other coalition forces will also be reduced proportionally over that time.