String of Attacks Mark Beginning of Fighting Season
Shortly after announcing start of summer fighting season, the Taliban organized multiple attacks across Afghanistan. According to the reports, Taliban militants opened fire and assaulted a government building in eastern province of Nangarhar while in Kabul two rocket attacks targeted the city’s international airport that had no casualties. The militants launched another attack on a police checkpoint in Ghazni province, leaving at least three people dead. After the Taliban stormed provincial justice compound police engaged in fighting the militants for many hours. Taliban have claimed responsibility for the string of attacks that occurred in Kabul and western city of Jalalabad, saying they marked the beginning of the summer fighting season. The Taliban announced their summer fighting offensives some days ago with the name “Khaibar” and kick-started their bloody campaign on Monday.
The attacks are coming after International Crisis Group warned that Afghanistan’s armed forces would be vulnerable to the Taliban’s resurgence unless they are sufficiently funded and assisted by the international community. The report issued by the organization said the Taliban might gain more grounds if the international community neglects to provide enough support for Afghanistan’s armed forces. The ICG report warned that the Taliban might retake larges in insecure areas after completion of withdrawal of NATO forces by end of this year.
The onset of seasonal violence is coming at a time when Afghanistan is reading for holding the second round of its presidential elections. The first round of the elections was heavily targeted by the militant groups as the Taliban organized large-scale attacks ahead of the Election Day to disrupt the voting and intimidate the voters. However, the voters were not frightened by Taliban attacks and largely turned out to polling stations to vote for Afghanistan’s next president. The Taliban could not orchestrate a large-scale assault on the day of elections though there were some small scale fighting between Afghan security forces and the Taliban in many of the insecure provinces.
The upcoming violence of the Taliban offensive will particularly target the election and the ongoing withdrawal of NATO forces. After the first round of the elections, there has been a relative lull after the spectacular and brazen attacks of the militant groups in Kabul and elsewhere. The Taliban have vowed to target election workers, campaigners, observers and the ordinary voters. The first round of the election had a high toll from the elections workers, campaigners as well as candidates in the provinces. Though the slight relief from Taliban attacks, it is expected the Taliban will resume their brutal fight against all the individuals who are contributing in the election process.
Despite the questions raised in recent weeks over the Taliban avoiding escalation of violence, it is most probable that the militants organize attacks exactly weeks ahead of the second round of elections. Though in weaker morale after the first round of the elections, the Taliban will do everything to retaliate their defeat in the first round of the elections. The Taliban did not shy away from targeting both security forces and the civilians alike in the previous round of elections and they are expected to focus more on targeting officials, security forces and those who are working with the election commissions. The Afghan government and its international allies both need to make sure that the Afghan security forces are sufficiently equipped and trained so to be able to keep the Taliban at bay.