Signs of the Taliban reducing violence and committing to genuine and serious peace talks are far from sight, suggests a new report by the U.N. sounding the alarm that “unprecedented” level of violence from 2020 has carried onto 2021 and is likely to increase more this year. According to the report, the group “continues to strengthen its military position as leverage.”
According to the report, 2020 was the “most violent year ever recorded” by the U.N. in Afghanistan and attacks have increased 60 percent in the first three months of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020. The group uses violence as their main leverage in the peace talks, claims victory for defeating the U.S. forces in Afghanistan and views the elected government of Afghanistan a “puppet” of the West.
The U.N. report highlights an important point: Violence has been unprecedented and the Taliban are behind a great majority of the attacks on the people. As the report suggests, these attacks “appear to be undertaken with the objective of weakening the capacity of the government and intimidating civil society.” Members of civil society, journalists and women professionals have been at the top of these attacks, creating panic and fear in the Afghan civil society.
“The Taliban’s messaging remains uncompromising, and it shows no sign of reducing the level of violence in Afghanistan to facilitate peace negotiations with the government of Afghanistan and other Afghan stakeholders,” reads the U.N. report.
The report affirms the Taliban remains close to Al-Qaeda and that it will return “to power by force if necessary.” It offers a grim view for the Afghan people post U.S. and NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan as well. The report compiled by the U.N. Monitoring Team covers a period of between May 2020 and April 2021, when the Taliban had entered an agreement with the U.S. in which they promised to cut their ties with Al-Qaeda, engage in meaningful negotiations with the Afghan government and reduce violence. According to the U.N. report, the Taliban has violated all of the above.
Over the past year since the intra-Afghan talks begin in September, violence against the Afghan people has been at the highest level and although major blasts have been less, the tactics to intimidate and kill people have changed. Targeted assassinations have been at the highest level—against members of civil society, judges, doctors, students, on- and off- duty public servants, and journalists.
In the last few years, religious scholars who are vocal critics against Taliban terrorism and leaders of government-initiated religious councils have been on the hit list as well. In the month of June alone, a woman journalist, Mina Khairi, her mother and sister, as well as a few other civilians were murdered in Kabul. The next day, a religious scholar was murdered in Herat, the west of Afghanistan. Following that attack, in another province, Badghis, a roadside bomb struck a passenger bus and killed 12 of them; four women and three children were among the dead.
In May, a girls’ school was targeted in which 90 people were killed—a majority of them school girls between the ages of 11 and 17. The school is located in a Hazara and Shia majority part of Kabul which has experienced similar major attacks in the past.
This report, along with experts, warn the Taliban has not changed; their ambition to return to power holds stronger than ever; the group has remained vague about human rights, women’s rights and the structure of government; continues to terrorize people and targets ethnic and religious minorities; and the production and trafficking of poppy remains their “largest single source of income.”
Even still, the U.S. and NATO forces are set to withdraw unconditionally by this summer. The high level of violence, an emboldened Taliban by the U.S., and the ongoing uncertainty around the peace talks have created an environment of panic and distress among the Afghan people, particularly Afghan women.