Security

US military blames Taliban for series of assassinations ahead of peace talks

By Salaam Times and AFP

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Relatives take part in the funeral procession of journalist Rahmatullah Nekzad in Ghazni Province on December 22. Nekzad was fatally shot December 21. [AFP]

KABUL -- The US military on Monday (January 4) blamed the Taliban for the assassinations of prominent Afghans, the first time Washington has directly accused the insurgent group of the killings.

The accusation was made as the Afghan government and the Taliban are due to resume peace talks in Qatar on Tuesday (January 5), as both sides seek an end to the war.

"The Taliban's campaign of unclaimed attacks and targeted killings of government officials, civil society leaders and journalists must... cease for peace to succeed," Colonel Sonny Leggett, spokesman for US forces in Afghanistan, posted on Twitter.

Leggett's statement comes as the Taliban accused US forces of carrying out air strikes against insurgents in Kandahar, Nangarhar and Helmand provinces in recent days.

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President Ashraf Ghani met with members of the Afghan negotiating team on January 4 before they departed Kabul for Doha to resume talks with the Taliban. [Afghan Presidential Palace] 

The United States will continue to defend Afghan forces from the Taliban, said Leggett.

The deputy governor of Kabul province, five journalists, and a prominent election activist have been among those assassinated in Afghanistan since November.

Taliban and ISIS

Afghan officials blame the Taliban for the killings, but the hardline group has denied the charges, while the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) says its members were responsible for a number of the assassinations.

"The Taliban aim to divide the people and trigger criticism and frustration against the government's security institutions with these assassinations," Javid Faisal, an adviser to the National Security Council, told AFP.

"But the killings are uniting people," Faisal said.

The insurgents will not claim responsibility for the killings while peace talks are proceeding, said Nishank Motwani of the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit.

However, they still want to demonstrate to their members "that the Taliban are who they are and have not changed", he said.

The Taliban carried out more than 18,000 attacks in 2020, Afghan spy chief Ahmad Zia Saraj told lawmakers January 4.

The first nine months of last year saw 2,177 civilians killed and 3,822 wounded, according to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.

"We have no security at all in Kabul. For how long will we need to keep burying our loved ones?" asked Jamshid Mohammad, a resident of Kabul.

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The turbulent and bloody conditions of the country and the incompetence of the president. My homeland, this legendary country which was famous for its beauty throughout the history, is now a bitter and devastating narrative. It has faced thousands of incurable pains. Our honest youths are killed in fire and explosions every day. Fathers order coffins every day with broken hearts, and mothers mourn their children’s dismembered corpses with sighs and groans. From Herat to Badakhshan and Kandahar to Balkh, people are living in terror, insecurity and distress. Every day, there is the news of repeated or successive killings and explosions. There are no security, no water, no bread, no work, and no bright future. There are neither public services nor honest politicians. The deceitful President, who hides behind the cemented and security walls, expresses false statements after every incident and makes annoying screams on the microphone. You have turned the country into a shambles. Shame on you. You ruined the country. May God ruin your home. You make the children of this country to be killed every day. May your children be killed as you become aware of the suffering and pain of the mothers and fathers. Words of Pedram, a member of the parliament

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If the United States is really concerned about killings of civilians, it must resolve the issue of war and peace of Afghanistan. All power is in the hand of the United States. They have money; they have influence. If it puts pressure only on Saudi Arabia or Pakistan, it can end the war in Afghanistan, but the United States never wants that to happen. There might be interest of this country in the war of Afghanistan. Not a single soldier of the United States has been killed so far in Afghanistan since the US-Taliban peace agreement was signed, while thousands of innocent Afghans have been killed by the Taliban during this time. America could also asked Taliban in the agreement to stop killing of the Afghans, but America did not do so.

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Attempted assassinations!
According to politicians, in previous governments or communist systems, particularly in those of Tarakai and Amin, journalists, political leaders, tribal elders were assassinated secretly. Their dead bodies disappeared and so far no one has been aware of them. It is even not clear where they have been buried. Forty years after the mentioned governments, the same assassinations are going on in the democratic system. The only difference is that people are assassinated clearly in the public eyes, and their dead bodies do not disappear so that their graves remain as shrines for their beloved ones.
According to Imam Fakhri:
We ran perplexedly all our lives
We finally got to where we were

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