Violence ‘increases’ in Kandahar amidst peace efforts

KABUL (Tolo News): TOLOnews’ Abdullah Hamim who visited different parts of Kandahar as well as the frontlines said he has found from residents and officials that insecurity and targeted killings have increased in Kandahar over the last year and that thousands of families have been displaced due to violence since last February when the United States’ former administration signed a peace deal with the Taliban in Doha.

TOLOnews findings from official sources show that at least 55 people have been killed in targeted attacks in the city of Kandahar in the last three months. The figures show that 61 targeted attacks have happened in the city during this period.

“There won’t be any need for the fighting if the Taliban agrees on peace,” said Mohammad Nasim, father of a victim of targeted attacks. “We want to live with our families.” The Taliban conducted widespread attacks on central districts of Kandahar and those near the capital city of the province and captured some parts over the last six months, according to officials. These attacks have been called unprecedented in the last 12 years.

“In an outpost with 20 people, five of them are addicted to drugs. Salaries are paid with delay,” said Samiullah, a soldier, recalling problems on the frontlines. “I don’t think that Kandahar can be controlled like this because it is controlled by soldiers, but soldiers are not paid on time and meanwhile, they are not supplied on time,” said Haqmal, a soldier, referring to problems around their duty.

Violence was expected to reduce following the Doha agreement, but it remained high in various parts of the country, especially in the southern zone. “The Taliban attacks have increased over the last two years after the start of the peace efforts,” said Karimullah, an army officer. “They are seeking leverage by increasing their violence.”

Those on the frontlines have different views about the impacts of the US-Taliban agreement on the security situation in Kandahar. “Americans used to help (Afghan forces) in the past. They patrolled with us, but now their cooperation has reduced to 10%. Most of the military operations are conducted by Afghan forces,” the commander of the 3rd Regiment of 205 Atal Corps in Kandahar, Zabihullah Ghorzang, said.

Those who live in insecure parts of Kandahar said they are faced with an uncertain fate and that they are concerned about their future. Everyone in the Zherai district in Kandahar had a sad story from the conflicts. “We are close to volatile areas. We are stuck between both sides. The Taliban asks us not to enter their areas while the government asks us not to enter their territories,” a Zherai district’s resident Najibullah said.

“Farming has stopped. Houses are closed (due to conflicts),” said Hafizullah, a resident of Kandahar. At least 12,000 internally displaced persons are living in the city of Kandahar and have no access to basic needs in life as they described. “We have been displaced since the start of the fighting… We left many things there,” said Mohammad Qasim, a resident of Panjwai district.

Meanwhile, the Afghan National Security and Defense Forces (ANDSF) have cleared 25 kilometers of mines between Nangarhar’s Hesarak and Sherzad districts after twelve years. Security officials in the eastern province of Afghanistan said that the security forces launched their operations two months ago and cleared the roads of landmines and other explosives.

Hesarak district is one of the key strategic districts in Nangarhar, and borders with Laghman, Kabul, Logar and Paktia provinces. “There was no way to get supplies, we were not able to transfer our wounded officers and martyred ones,” said Rohullah, an Afghan National Police officer.

“We were witnessing at least 50 mortars attacks daily,” said Zargai Stanekzai, an officer. Military officials in Hesarak have said that there is still the presence of Taliban fighters in the outskirts of the district. “With God’s support and with the cooperation of the people, this area has been cleared, we will establish bases and checkpoints here to ensure security,” said Naseer Ahmad Sapai, the commander of the 4th Battalion of 201 Selab Army Corps. A few months ago, two helicopters belonging to the Afghan National Army (ANA) crashed after they collided in flight. They were transporting reinforcements to the area. Two pilots and three others were killed in the incident.