KABUL: Sources say a U.S. government watchdog has reported that violent attacks in the war in Afghanistan hit record rates in the last quarter of 2019, as the body underlined the continued toll of the conflict amid relative peace in the capital of the country.
The nation’s capital and other urban areas have experienced a remarkable period of more than two months without the kinds of large-scale bomb attack that often shake the town and cause mass causalities.
Given the respite that has come as the US and the Taliban pursue negotiations about a possible deal for American forces to exit Afghanistan, fighting has continued tenacious in rural provinces, with daily reports of skirmishes emerging.
According to the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), last year’s “enemy-initiated assaults” rose sharply with a total of 8,204 attacks in the fourth quarter from 6,974 in the same time in 2018.
The highest number of casualty-causing attacks was seen in September since reporting started in 2010, when the first round of presidential voting was held.
SIGAR noted that attacks appeared to reflect progress in talks between the US and the Taliban, with incidents dropping earlier in the year after US President Donald Trump temporarily stopped negotiations in September.
“A turbulent past six months has resulted in higher overall enemy attacks (6%) and effective attacks (4%) in 2019 compared to the already high levels reported in 2018,” SIGAR said in its quarterly report to the US Congress.
According to the US Air Force, the Pentagon has also continued to rise the pace of operations, with American warplanes dropping more bombs on Afghanistan in 2019 than at any other time in at least a decade.
Washington and the Taliban are still grappling over a possible deal that would see US forces start to leave Afghanistan in exchange for security guarantees.
The US has been calling on the taliban to reduce violence for months, but in recent days both sides have said little about the status of the negotiations and the Kabul government wants the US to press for a complete ceasefire.
SIGAR’s report also found that the security forces in Afghanistan had been struggling take to conflict with the Taliban, relying on US assistance for more than half of their ground operations.
SIGAR also highlighted a small increase in the number of casualties among Afghan military members which have suffered huge losses over the past five years.