Terror in Kabul

Jun 1, 2017
A deadly year of violence in Afghanistan continued on Wednesday after a vehicle bomb attack near the German Embassy in the diplomatic enclave in Kabul killed 80 people and injured at least 350 others. The attack, apparently carried out by a suicide bomber, took place in the morning when people were on their way to work; the majority of the casualties were civilians. The Afghan Taliban denied having any role in the attack, with spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid saying the group does not carry out untargeted attacks that cause mass civilian casualties. The other likely suspect is the Islamic State which has been making inroads in recent months and was responsible for a suicide bomb attack on a Nato convoy near the US embassy earlier this month. Whoever might be responsible, it is becoming increasingly clear that the Afghan government is failing to secure the country. The Taliban spring offensive has put the government on the back foot, with last month’s attack on an army training ground in Mazar-e-Sharif leading to the resignations of the defence minister and army chief of staff. Peace talks between the government and the Taliban have come to a halt as President Ashraf Ghani has opted to go on the offensive against Pakistan for supposedly sheltering the Taliban.
The continued presence of Nato troops – nearly 14,000 – in Afghanistan further complicates the situation. As long as foreign forces are behind the Afghan government and army, militant groups will continue to be able to recruit foot soldiers by portraying themselves as a resistance to foreign occupation. The recent review by the Pentagon, State Department and intelligence agencies in the US which recommended sending even more troops to Afghanistan will only exacerbate the situation. The same situation is playing out in Iraq where a massive US bombing campaign has seen the IS lose territory but only intensify its tactic of carrying out terrorist attacks. Just a day before the Kabul attack, the IS attacked a popular ice cream shop in Baghdad and detonated a car bomb in rush hour traffic, killing more than 30 people. Sympathy for both Iraq and Afghanistan is high, with messages of condolence pouring in from around the world. Pakistan was among the first to release a message and the army chief also offered his sympathies. But for Afghanistan to defeat militant groups, it will need to step up and take responsibility for security in the country. From the international community, the last thing it needs is more foreign troops but it has to engage diplomatically with its neighbours. Sixteen years after the US toppling of the Taliban, it is clear that the Afghan state cannot defeat it militarily. The violence of this year should only steel its resolve to pursue a political solution.
The News, June 1, 2017

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