Human Rights

Afghan Taliban destroy infrastructure, endanger civilians

By Sulaiman


A classroom damaged by the Taliban in Helmand Province is shown in this undated picture. Afghan militants have destroyed countless pieces of infrastructure over the past few years, with children bearing the worst of the atrocities. [Courtesy of Sulaiman]

KABUL -- Crippled by the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF), the Taliban and other anti-state elements are resorting to using improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to continue their destructive path in Afghanistan, officials and human rights groups say.

As a result of their indiscriminate violence, civilians -- and children in particular -- are suffering the most from these attacks, research shows.

Taliban destroy public infrastructure

"After suffering heavy defeats in fighting against the security forces, the Taliban destroyed people's houses and shops, as well as medical clinics, schools, mosques, streets and bridges," Shah Hussain Mortazavi, deputy spokesperson for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, told Salaam Times.

Over the past two months, the Taliban have wrought immense damage in terms of financial loss, material destruction and civilian casualties nationwide, he said.

The Taliban in that period have inflicted more than 2.1 billion AFN (US $32.5m) of damage to infrastructure in Kunduz, Ghazni, Faryab, Uruzgan, Nangarhar, Badghis, Baghlan, Paktia, Helmand and Sar-i-Pul provinces, Martazavi said.

They have destroyed 302 schools, 41 medical clinics, 50 mosques, 1,800 shops and stores, and 123 km of roads, he said, calling it "a criminal act".

During its 20 years of existence, the Taliban have deprived a whole generation of Afghans of quality education, Mortazavi said.

Putting children at risk

Children represent the most vulnerable group in Afghanistan's conflict with the Taliban.

A major and on-going concern is the danger of unexploded ordnance and casualties from IEDs, which represent 18% of civilian casualties in Afghanistan.

"Eighty-four percent of victims from unexploded ordnance were children," UNAMA Human Rights Director Danielle Bell said in a report published October 19. "All parties must systematically track, mark and clear unexploded ordinance in order protect current and future generations of children from harm."

Afghans who have suffered the Taliban's abuses condemn the high price that children pay.

"The main victims of IEDs are civilians, especially children," Abdul Baqi Samandar, Kabul-based child-rights activist, told Salaam Times.

"Every year, hundreds of children and especially schoolchildren, are killed by IEDs," he added.

The Taliban have many other ways of harming children besides killing them with IEDs that they plant throughout the countryside. In 2015, their recruitment of children more than doubled compared to 2014, according to the website of the UK NGO Child Victims of War.

Militants are also involved in "bacha bazi", the sexual exploitation of children, particularly of boys, according to Child Victims of War.

Afghanistan committed to protecting civilians

Ghani considers the Taliban's attacks on civilians and the destruction of public facilities "blatant crimes against humanity", Mortazavi said, adding, "The Afghan government is determined to protect properties, lives and infrastructure in Afghanistan."

"In collaboration with popular councils, representatives of people in the parliament and the tribal elders, we decided that upon completion of the process of clearing an area from the Taliban forces, it will be incumbent upon the local councils and influential tribal elders, along with the security forces and the local government, to protect that area's public facilities," he said.

"The people have promised to further co-operate with us in protecting public facilities," said Najib Danish, deputy spokesperson for the Interior Ministry.

"In addition, we have established stationary and mobile security checkpoints in vulnerable areas where there exist public facilities such as bridges, streets and other infrastructure, so that the people, as well as public facilities, can be safe from possible Taliban attacks," he told Salaam Times.

"The destruction of public places, which belong to the citizens of the country, is akin to the destruction of the shared wealth of the nation; an act which, according to the Koranic verses and religious traditions, is absolutely prohibited," Muhammad Hashmi, a religious scholar and professor in Kabul, told Salaam Times.

Damaging personal and public property through force, violence and terroris a textbook example of "spreading corruption on earth", which Islam prohibits, he said, adding that those who commit such acts must be punished.

Taliban are 'enemy of the people'

The Taliban's wanton destruction is evidence that the group lacks any type of political plan, Gharzi Khwakhouzhi, a Kabul-based senior military and security analyst, said.

"The Taliban have no consideration or regard for public interests and for the prosperity of the people of Afghanistan," he told Salaam Times. "They lack legitimate objectives and purposes, and they do not believe in any military or civilian principles and regulations."

Groups who fight based on a political agenda are concerned with garnering public support, but the Taliban have shown no regard for satisfying the Afghan people, he said.

The Taliban have completely lost the trust of every Afghan because they keep committing terrorism, targeting people and destroying the country's infrastructure, he said, adding that citizens should be encouraged to co-operate with the security forces to defeat the Taliban's destruction.

The Taliban are the enemy of the people and of the public interest, Farhad Seddiqi, a member of parliament representing Kabul, said.

"The Taliban have dealt the greatest blow to Afghanistan as a country as well as to its people," he told Salaam Times. "Although at one point in the past they ruled over most of the country, the absolute majority of the Afghan population considers Taliban the the enemy."

Terrorists without a plan

The Taliban have no agenda for promoting peace and stability in the country, he said, adding that the Taliban's only plan is to create horror and to harm the Afghan people.

Should the Taliban continue their trend of committing such horrendous acts, they will face further public outrage, Seddiqi said.

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