KUNDUZ -- The Taliban are continuing to blow up bridges in an attempt to stymie Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) and hinder the Afghan government's reconstruction plans.
In the latest incident, the Taliban destroyed a 6-metre-long bridge in Qulbars village on the outskirts of Taloqan, Takhar Province, on April 20, according to local authorities and residents.
"The Taliban fighters blew up this bridge in Qulbars village at about midnight, cutting off 1,000 families from the capital of Takhar Province," said Abdul Khalil Aseer, a spokesperson for Takhar police.
"Taliban fighters destroyed the Qulbars bridge to prevent the security forces from chasing them," he said, adding that the group targeted two other bridges in Taloqan over the past two weeks.
On April 5, the Taliban destroyed a bridge with a mine explosion in Shinwari village of Taloqan, Aseer said. The bridge connected Baharak District to the Takhar-Kunduz highway.
The same group on April 16 "placed a mine under a the culvert on the Takhar–Kunduz highway near the Khaspaka area in Taloqan", he added. Takhar police engineers defused the bomb before it exploded.
The Taliban have a long history of destroying key infrastructure, including bridges and roads, schools, telecom equipment and health centres.
For example, the Taliban July 31, 2015, demolished a 120-metre-long bridge built by the Ministry of Public Works in Qala-e-Zal District of Kunduz Province.
Similarly last June 24, the Taliban blew up a 100-metre-long bridge in Khwaja Changaal area in Taloqan, cutting off 20 villages in Takhar Province.
More recently, on February 3, the Taliban burned down Bodala Girls' Middle School, 5km from Taloqan.
Over the past year the Taliban have set fire to 10 telecom towers in Bangi, Khwaja Ghar, Ishkamish and Hazar Sumuch districts, Abdul Ghafoor Talash, director of Communications and IT in Takhar Province, said earlier this month.
Taliban not committed to peace
Taloqan residents have condemned the Taliban's destruction of essential infrastructure.
"Our government begs for money [from the international community] to build us roads, bridges and schools, but this group mercilessly destroys them," said Abdul Rahim Nawabi, a member of the Qulbars village council.
"We were cut off in the month of Ramadan; we can't afford to rebuild [the bridge]," he said.
With the destruction of the bridge, residents of seven villages are facing a shortage of food, said Abdullah Kakar, a resident of Nawabad village in Taloqan city.
"Everyone in these villages is poor," he said. "Some of them used to go to Taloqan for work every day, but now that the bridge has been destroyed, everyone is in shock and feels anxious."
"If the Taliban were real Afghans, they would never stand against their people and harm their government," he said. "It is obvious that they are slaves [of others]."
These destructive acts of the Taliban show that they are not committed to the peace process, said Muhammad Farid Mirzapur, a resident of Takhar Province.
"If they don't refrain from killing civilians and security forces, and destroying public installations, civilians will lose their trust in the peace process," he said.
According to its strategic plans, the Afghan government has always tried to prioritise infrastructure projects in its development agenda, said Mustafa Rasouli, director of the technical and sectoral services department in Takhar Province.
"It is much easier to destroy a road, a bridge, a clinic or a school, but it takes months and even years to rebuild it," he said.
The Takhar local government is working to immediately address the transportation problems facing the affected villages, he added.
"The Taliban have sustained heavy casualties in Ishkamish, Yangi Qala, Darqad, Khwaja Ghar and Namak Aab districts over the past month," said Aseer, the Takhar police spokesperson. "Therefore, they want to blow up bridges to avoid being chased by security forces."
The Taliban have nowhere to hide in the province, and additional ANDSF operations will soon be launched against them, he said.
"In the beginning, we plan to secure the Takhar-Kunduz highway along which the Taliban cause disturbances," he said. "We will establish new checkpoints on this route."
"Next, we are planning to launch comprehensive operations to flush out the terrorists from all the insecure areas," Aseer said.