On Sunday, in yet another targeted attack by the Taliban, two women judges on the Supreme Court of Afghanistan were shot and killed in Kabul. Two other employees of the Court were wounded in the same attack. The judges, along with their colleagues, were on their way to work in the morning when two gunmen killed and wounded the judges. Targeted assassinations have been at peak levels for the past three months in Afghanistan. Journalists, human rights activists, Afghan women leaders, Afghan government leaders, religious scholars and young human rights activists have been the target of these attacks.
The US and the Taliban signed an agreement in February 2020 in which the US committed to a possible complete withdrawal of troops by May 1st of this year if certain conditions are met. One of the conditions was that the Taliban would reduce violence and stop attacking US and allied troops and interests. Although the Taliban avoided attacking US troops, the group increased its attacks against the Afghan people and the Afghan government. For the past 20 years, the US has supported the Afghan government and has been an ally and a reliable partner. However, the Taliban has refused to acknowledge the Afghan government and increased its attacks on the Afghan people and the Afghan government.
The US has entered several agreements with the government of Afghanistan, including the U.S.–Afghanistan Strategic Partnership Agreement and the Bi-Lateral Security Agreement signed by former President Obama, in which the Afghan government is viewed as an ally and partner. Both of these agreements are legally binding and obligate the US to a longer commitment to Afghanistan, especially to the security of Afghanistan as well as supporting the economy of Afghanistan “until 2024 and beyond.”
This month, Afghanistan’s national director of intelligence, Ahmad Zia Siraj, told Afghan parliamentarians that the Taliban had carried out more than 18,000 attacks against the Afghan people in 2020, while they were negotiating peace in Doha.
The Afghan government and women’s rights groups have been voicing their concerns that the Taliban has not met the conditions of ceasing or “reducing” violence. Multiple officials of the Afghan government said the Taliban and its affiliates are behind the attacks, however, the Taliban has denied their role in the targeted killings of the Afghan civil servants and prominent human rights advocates.
Many Afghan officials believe that the Taliban denial is a new strategy they are employing while engaging in the peace talks. For the first time since the peace talks, US armed forces spokesman in Afghanistan Colonel Sonny Leggett blamed the Taliban for the increased attacks too. He tweeted that, “The Taliban’s campaign of unclaimed attacks and targeted killings of government officials, civil society leaders & journalists must … cease for peace to succeed.”
Negotiators from the Afghan government’s team as well as the Taliban, are back in Doha to resume the peace talks. According to Reuters, the second round has been slow as both sides wait for a decision by the incoming Biden Administration on Afghanistan. While the teams await a decision, they have met a few times to discuss an agenda and to keep the process active. President-elect Biden and his team have largely remained silent on their Afghan strategy.