KUNDUZ -- The Taliban killed at least 23 Afghan troops and nine civilians, officials said Monday (April 20), as a fresh wave of violence grips Afghanistan despite a deal with the United States and a worsening coronavirus crisis.
Under the terms of the US-Taliban deal, the Afghan government and the insurgents were by now supposed to have concluded a prisoner exchange and started talks aimed at bringing about a comprehensive ceasefire.
But the stalled prisoner swap has been beset with problems -- with Kabul claiming the Taliban are demanding the release of some of the group's most notorious militants.
Late Sunday (April 19) night in Takhar Province, the Taliban struck an Afghan army base, killing 16 soldiers and two policemen, provincial police spokesman Abdul Khalil Aseer told AFP.
The governor's spokesman, Muhammad Jawad Hejri, confirmed the attack and also blamed the Taliban, putting the death toll at 19.
In the south, the Taliban attacked a police checkpoint near Tirin Kot, Uruzgan Province.
"Five Afghan policemen were killed, and three others were wounded," Zergai Ebadi, the provincial governor's spokesman, told AFP.
The toll was confirmed by the chairman of the Uruzgan provincial council, Amir Mohammad.
Taliban targets civilians
In Balkh Province, the Taliban killed nine civilians after they resisted when insurgents tried to extort money from them, according to District Governor Sayed Arif Iqbali.
On Saturday (April 18), the Afghan government accused the Taliban of capturing and releasing civilians whom the Taliban misidentified as Afghan security personnel after the militants released 40 prisoners last week in Laghman Province.
"Taliban must uphold their end on prisoners by releasing ANDSF personnel from the list that the government has given them. They must also stop capturing and torturing civilians and minors," Javid Faisal, a National Security Council spokesman, tweeted April 18. "They must release all civilians in their custody immediately and commit to a ceasefire."
Only nine out of 40 individuals released by the Taliban in Laghman Province were members of the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF), Faisal said.
"Twenty-eight of those released recently were taken by Taliban after the group signed the Doha deal and committed to releasing 1,000 ANDSF personnel," he said. "Taliban also released 12 ALP [Afghan Local Police] who deserted to the group less than a month ago. They will be charged under [the] law."
US pledges continued support
On April 19, the Taliban released a list of attacks conducted by the coalition and Afghan forces against the group in a month, accusing the United States of violating the peace agreement it signed with the militants on February 29 in Doha.
US forces based in Afghanistan swiftly rejected the Taliban claims, saying coalition forces would continue to support Afghan forces in accordance with the written terms of the agreement.
"All sides, but especially the Taliban, must reduce violence to allow the political process to take hold." TOLOnews cited Gen. Scott Miller, the top US general in Afghanistan, as saying.
The United States "remains committed" to the deal with the Taliban, and "US Forces-Afghanistan, in accordance with the written terms of the agreement, continue to support and defend the Afghan Security Forces," said Miller spokesman Col. Sonny Leggett, according to TOLOnews.
Fighting has continued even as the coronavirus spreads throughout Afghanistan.
So far, the country has seen 1,026 cases of COVID-19 and 36 deaths, though real numbers are feared to be much higher as the impoverished country has only limited testing capabilities.
Damn to the bloodthirsty and criminal Taliban, who kill the oppressed and innocent Afghans every day.Reply
Taliban are more dangerous than the corona virus for Afghans. In the past one month, corona has claimed the lives of about 30 people in the country, while Taliban killed more than 40 of our compatriots overnight. Making peace with this group will not give result. The United States should immediately cancel the peace agreement with Taliban and support the Afghan government against the group. The group's attacks were intensified when the United States began peace talks, led by Zalmai Khalilzad with the group. And they got even more courageous when the United States signed peace agreement with them. Taliban consider themselves victorious of the 18-year-old war. They say that they defeated the United States along with 50 other NATO countries. If the United States leaves Afghanistan irresponsibly and does not make peace between the Afghan government and Taliban, and does not establish an inclusive government in Afghanistan, then there will be a huge humanitarian crisis that neither the United States nor the international community will control it. Even if Taliban take over power in this country, they must take it over peaceful, not through war, because if war breaks out between the Afghan government and Taliban, once again millions of Afghan citizens will be displaced and thousands will be killed and get disabled; therefore, it is better for the United States and Afghan political leaders to make right decision about the future of Afghanistan.Reply