Fourteen security workers were killed when their minibus was attacked on Monday. In all, 25 people died in three separate terror strikes. Both the Islamic State and the Taliban have claimed responsibility for these attacks.
Days after the United States had announced that it will expand their military's authority to conduct air strikes against the Taliban a wave of violence has struck the country. These attacks have come during the holy month of Ramzan that began on June 6. Although Muslim religious scholars had urged warring sides to stop hostilities during Ramzan, the Taliban called the time a “month of holy war”.
Experts had contended that recent death of Mullah Akhtar Mansour would create a leadership vacuum in the Afghan Taliban. But Mansour’s death was soon followed by the appointment of Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada as the new Supreme Leader. Suffice to say, his appointment has raised important questions regarding the development of a fragile peace process in Afghanistan and the future of the Taliban.
The militant group has seen tremendous internal friction this past year and continues to jostle for influence and control against ISIS gains further north. Under Akhundzada, however, the Afghan Taliban seems to have found a unifying figure. “The Taliban already control units in Helmand that allow the group monetary access to profits from the global opium trade,” according to a recent column in The Huffington Post.
“There is little incentive to participate in peacemaking, especially for a leader who will not want to appear weak.” Reports indicate that US President Barack Obama had authorised the drone strike that killed Mansour in the southwestern Pakistani province of Baluchistan. Calling the death "an important milestone", Obama said Mansour had rejected peace talks and had "continued to plot against and unleash attacks on American and Coalition forces".
But the attack has also destroyed the possibility of any peace talks between the Taliban and the US-backed Kabul regime. Experts contend that these developments could further escalate the scale of violence in Afghanistan. According to a recent study, the death toll in Afghanistan’s civil war has quadrupled since American and British combat troops left the country, with 15,000 people being killed last year.
Afghanistan suffered the biggest increase in fatalities of any war zone in the world in 2015. The American strategy for stability in Afghanistan hinges on Pakistan’s cooperation. But the script has gone terribly wrong, as argued in these columns.