Taliban attacks in Afghanistan’s north and south have killed at least 11 Afghan soldiers and policemen, the country’s Defense Ministry and a provincial official said Monday.
The violence comes even as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani last week announced his 21-member team to negotiate peace with the Taliban, only to have his political opponent, Abdullah Abdullah, reject it as not inclusive enough. The two men have verbally wrestled over the Afghan presidency. Ghani was declared the winner of last September’s election in February; Abdullah cried foul.
The Taliban have not claimed responsibility for the latest attacks.
According to the Defense Ministry, the insurgents targeted a military checkpoint in a multi-pronged attack in the district of Argandab in southern Zabul province on Sunday night, killing at least six troops. In northern Baghlan province, at least five members of the security forces were killed and six others were wounded when their checkpoint came under attack on the outskirts of the provincial capital, Pulikhomri, said Mabobullah Ghafari, a provincial council member. That attack also took place on Sunday.
On Monday, a sticky bomb attached to vehicle detonated in the capital of Kabul, wounding at least four people, said Firdaus Faramraz, spokesman for the Kabul police chief.
Afghanistan’s political turmoil and the rivalry between Ghani and Abdullah have impeded each step toward talks with the Taliban — negotiations that were supposed to come next under a peace deal that Washington signed with the insurgents last month.
The deal calls for the eventual withdrawal of all 13,000 U.S. soldiers from Afghanistan in exchange for guarantees from the Taliban that they would fight other militant groups, including the Islamic State group. The deal has been touted as Afghanistan’s best chance yet of ending its relentless wars. The Kabul government was not a party to the agreement.
Ghani and Abdullah, who also declared himself president in a parallel inauguration ceremony earlier this month, have been locked in a power struggle that has prompted Washington to say it would cut $1 billion in assistance to Afghanistan if the two couldn’t “get their act together.”
The Taliban are to send 10 representatives to the U.S.-led coalition base in Bagram, north of Kabul, to oversee the release of their prisoners. That release is also part of the deal signed with the U.S. that calls for the release of 5,000 Taliban and 1,000 government personnel and Afghan troops held captive by the Taliban.
Jawed Faisal, spokesman for the Afghan National Security Adviser’s office said Monday that Afghan officials and the Taliban agreed during a video conference that the Taliban should send their technical team to Kabul for face-to-face discussions on the release of Taliban prisoner. The International Committee of the Red Cross would provide assistance in this matter, Faisal added.
By Rahim Faiez for the Associated Press with additional reporting by The Diplomat.