By Chayanika Saxena
Marking the beginning of the infamous ‘spring offensive’ of the Afghan Taliban, which in its 2016 edition has been termed as 'Operation Omari', a massive vehicle-borne IED explosion ripped through the heart of Kabul yesterday, followed by stray gun fires. It is instructive to note that the attacks launched by the Afghan Taliban in the urban landscapes follow the same pattern - explosions followed by gun fires- indicating that while the reports of splits within the Afghan Taliban are still rife, these have not taken away from the efficacy of the offensives they launch.
This new operation, which has been launched by the Afghan Taliban to both commemorate the lost life of its first leader, Amir-ul-Momineen (Leader of the Faithful) Mullah Omar, who was reported to have died three years ago in Karachi, and to continue its 'jihad' against the international forces in Afghanistan, these explosions which rattled the capital city were the worst to have been recorded since 2011. In fact, taking their deadly route from the previous year forward, the latest attack in Kabul is the 26th attack that the Afghan Taliban has launched against the fledgling government in the war-torn country this year.
While the estimates of the gravely injured and dead are expected to increase given the intensity of the attack, however, it has been reported that around 30 have died as a result of direct impact or by having succumbed to injuries and about 330 people have been left gravely wounded in the ghastly attack.
Acknowledging the massive extent of damage that has been done to the lives and property in Kabul, the President of the National Unity Government, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, denounced the attackers and their extra-national plotters (read as the deep state of Pakistan) in the harshest terms, stating that the assault on the innocents stands in stark contravention of the Islamic tenets which a nefarious group like the Afghan Taliban claims to stand for.
The site of attack – which is in the highly sensitive area of Pul-e-Mahmood Khan—is significant for reasons including the high profile strategic, diplomatic and military installations it has. With many embassies and missions close by, including the Indian Embassy which is just four kilometers from the site of the attack, the assaults have created ripples internationally, especially as Afghanistan once again finds itself straddling with a highly insecure and vulnerable reality. As such, a deliberate targeting of this area can be viewed as a conscious attempt on the part of the Afghan Taliban to send out a strong message that its 'holy war' against the international forces and its "stooge" of a National Unity Government would continue unabated.
Bound to have an impact on the peace talks that already seem to be in the doldrums, these attacks are a show of strength on the part of the Afghan Taliban which has been seeking better terms of negotiations from the Quadrilateral Coordination Group - the international group of Afghanistan, China, Pakistan and the US - that is overseeing the peace and reconciliation process in this South Asian country.